Artificial Reef Basically a Net-Less Aquaculture
IN THE SEARCH for great fishing spots, 13 miles northeast of the South Padre Island Jetties, is a massive handmade reef, RGV Reef.
Some offshore Corpus Christi/Port Aransas anglers have already fished the reef. The RGV website (rgvreef.com) describes the reef as “basically net-less aquaculture driven by creating a cradle-to-adult fish habitat for reef fish, primarily red snappers.”
Also, when you get it right for all the life stages of snappers, you have made a great reef for all fish. At 1,650 acres, it’s the largest artificial reef off the Texas Coast.
RGV Reef is funded by individuals, conservation groups, family foundations, businesses, fishing tournaments, grants and state and local governments.
In the spring of 2018, through a grant from TPWD, 250 reef pyramids and 250 low relief modules were deployed on the west half of the reef. Friends of RGV deployed about 1,500 tons of concrete riprap in patch reefs. This enhances the CCA Corner, seeding around the two boats and augmenting the trolling trails on the north and south boundaries of the reef.
“During the summer, four to eight thousand tons of concrete rip rap, granite or concrete railroad ties in one or two piles were deployed and sit about 45 feet high off the bottom,” states the Reef website. “That’s within 30 feet of the surface, the crowning glory of the reef, habitat for the adult reef fish we grow, and drawing pelagiids such as kings, ling, tarpon and sail.”
In 2017, deployments were primarily arranged for two simple productive fishing techniques, drifting and trolling. Anchoring so that the boat rides at anchor over a patch reef or one of the sunken vessels will usually be the most productive method.
Drifting the CCA Corner for snappers…The southeast corner of the reef is called the CCA Corner, honoring CCA for their early, consistent, ongoing and substantial support of the reef.
The southeast corner is a grid of reef patches on 50-yard centers, each made up of three or four 10-foot-square box culverts with lots of concrete rip rap and some cinderblocks thrown in for good measure.
Start a drift there and under most wind and current conditions you will drift to the northwest over a reef patch every 50 yards, every few minutes. The grid extends 250 yards and was significantly expanded in spring of 2018.
Deeper-weighted baits will catch snappers and unweighted or lightly weighted mid depth and surface baits will catch kings, lings, and jacks.
Trolling the Trails
Lines of patch reefs are mostly oriented in east – west lines on the north and south boundaries of the reef. Each patch is made up of three or four pyramids of concrete highway divider walls, 10 or 20 tons of concrete rip rap, and a pallet or two of cinderblocks.
The east-west trails have patches on 200-yard spacings. “Enter the beginning and end of the trails and troll away.” There is a four-mile square following the perimeter of the west side of the reef.
Fishing the Boats
Max’s Wreck, named for Max Nichols, an early and continuing supporter of the reef, is a 60-foot, steel hull shrimp boat. RGV website says the boat is located on the south boundary of the reef in about the center and seems to have more than its share of kingfish and ling. The south end of a trolling trail leads to the TIFT Tug, another reef supporter.
Fishing the Squares
The west half of the reef is dominated by 250 pyramids and 250 concrete slabs with small rock and cinderblocks, arranged in a giant science experiment, which was deployed in spring 2018. Some of the squares will have just one pyramid, some will have four pyramids.
It’s cover that spreads out and may withstand fishing pressure well. If you’re not catching in the denser east side, give the west a try. The pyramids in the squares were paid for by a Conservation Management Plan Grant of $400,000 from the Texas General Land Office. This was matched by $400,000 from TPWD, unlike the rest of the reef, which was funded through Friends RGV Reef.
Waste of Time
There isn’t any structure around the yellow tube buoy, marking the center of the reef.”
Check out the RGV Reef web site, rgvreef.com for a map of the reef, and more detailed information along with GPS coordinates.
Friends wants the Reef to put more fish back in the Gulf than it takes, primarily red snappers. This will alleviate a juvenile snapper survival bottleneck caused by a lack of habitat. Mortality is high out on the flat bottom of the Gulf. The idea came out of scientific research at the experimental level.
RGV Reef is the first reef to provide that habitat on a large scale. All deployments are positioned and spaced in ways and numbers that can be used for scientific research. Most of the local research has been spearheaded by UT RGV’s Dr. Richard Kline.
Email Tom Behrens at ContactUs@fishgame.com