Southwest Florida’s best-kept secret isn’t found downtown, on a beach or an island – it’s not found anywhere on land. It’s a network of artificial reefs hidden underwater. Since the 1980s, it’s grown into both an alluring activity and a vital tool for conservation.
Coral reefs are a small part of the ocean but have a huge impact on the environment. Among other things, they help sustain a quarter of the world’s marine life and give important coastal protection from storms and erosion. The sparkling, sun-soaked waters of Southwest Florida aren’t quite right for coral growth, so where natural reefs don’t exist, artificial structures can create some of the same benefits. That’s why SWFL Reefs has repurposed steel towers, box cars and even a bus to create more than two dozen man-made reefs.
Where there was featureless sand, there’s now intricate sets of twisting metal and cut out concrete, stretching from the shallow water of Charlotte Harbor to more than 30 miles offshore. More than 250 species of fish call these reefs home, making these sites an angler’s playground and providing stunning sites for recreational divers.
There is no shortage of charter boats to choose from for fishing and diving across Southwest Florida. If you’re looking to scuba dive, you must be dive certified and present your certification card prior to boarding your boat. Maxed Out Charters and H20 Offshore Adventures offer fishing and diving charters to the artificial reefs. You can also check out other fishing charters here.
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel’s most renowned artificial reef isn’t new to the water. The USS Mohawk was commissioned in 1935, working as a patrol boat and icebreaker until the start of World War II. She served the entirety of the conflict escorting ships across the North Atlantic, launching multiple attacks against enemy submarines and famously giving the final radio call to General Eisenhower confirming clear weather for D-Day.
The Mohawk was decommissioned after the war and years later found in a Staten Island scrapyard. She was bought, towed, cleaned and scuttled off the Sanibel coast. She’s now serving her final duty as a permeant veteran’s reef memorial – the first of its kind in the United States. Making the 165-foot-long Mohawk a destination for divers, fishers and all wishing to pay their respects.
Artificial reefs are a relatively new form of marine management. In the 1960s, fishers in the Fort Myers area first started experimenting with man-made reefs, hoping to improve their angling odds. At first, they used tires, appliances and debris to build underwater structures. These materials proved short-lived in a marine environment. But as our expertise in construction has grown, so has the success of the reef ecosystem. Grants, contributions and donations play in important role in supporting this effort and enhancing the quality of life for both people and the marine life.
By visiting, interacting and respecting the artificial reefs on Fort Myers & Sanibel, you’re helping build a fun and sustainable future for everyone.
We Think You'll Also Like