FAD fishing buoys will attract larger game fish closer to the Gulf CoastBy John Mullen

March 12, 2019 – Orange Beach, AL - (OBA®) – A project Okaloosa County Commissioner Kelly Windes has been working on for years is about to bring a new fishing feature to the waters off of the Florida panhandle.

“Wahoo, dolphin, tuna, sailfish, white marlin, blue marlin, swordfish,” Windes said. “All the offshore fish. Blackfin tuna, they ought to just clog up with them. I’m hoping there’ll be some yellow fin’s as well.”

Kelly Windes, Okaloosa County CommissionerIn a project funded mainly by the Tourist Development Council of Okaloosa County with some help from neighboring Bay and Santa Rosa counties, eight fish aggregating devices will be deployed to help attract those species closer to shore.

“Hopefully it will take a little bit of the pressure off of the bottom reef fish that we’ve been hitting so hard for years,” Windes said. “It’ll give the private boats and the charter boats a little certainty on the offshore circuit where they have something to fish for rather than just going in blind all the time. It’s going to be a good little boost.”

It has been about a long process with all the agencies who had to bless the project before the structures would be allowed in the Gulf.

“We’ve been working about seven years getting this project OK’d and permitted by all the various agencies,” Windes said. “It’s taken a while but I think It’s going to be a good program. National Marine Fisheries, the Coast Guard, Eglin Air Force Base. We enjoyed the full bureaucracy.”


 

The project to attract the bigger game species will be unique to the Gulf of Mexico, Windes said.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty exciting project,” he said. “It’s the first time it’s been done in the continental United States. They have them in Puerto Rico, some of the Hawaiian Islands, some of the far exotic places.”

Alabama Director of Marine Resources Division Scott Bannon said Alabama has no plans to deploy similar buoys but will study the Florida project closely.

Alabama Director of Marine Resources Division Scott Bannon.“From my perspective, I’d like to see how their program works out, what kind of results they get and how well these hold up out there,” Bannon said. “The difference we have in Alabama is in that 60- to 80-mile range, we already have those offshore oil platforms that people are fishing around already. We already have some areas that make that kind of fishing available. It’s an interesting concept.”

Bannon said sometimes fishermen use similar devices in state water and leave them in the Gulf.

“We consider that to be criminal littering and we have picked up a lot of those people have placed out there,” he said. “If a person places it out there just while their fishing but if they leave it out there that’s an unpermitted deployment. We end up picking up a lot of those.”

DEPLOYMENT

Windes said the eight buoys will be anchored offshore in the De Soto Canyon in a horseshoe shape.

“Generally speaking, it’s going to be in 200 to 300 fathoms (1,200 to 1,800 feet) for the offshore fish,” he said. “It’ll be concrete anchors. You have to have a big supply boat to build them.”

After a decades-long career fishing out of Destin, Windes said that experience helped him decide where the buoys would work best.

“I been in the business 50 years so I know where to put them,” he said, “I fish a little bit commercially for snapper but no more charter fishing. My son’s got my boat now and he’s doing well with it. Destin, Fla., the largest and most modern charter fleet in the country. We’ve got a lot of boats.”

The waters off Destin, Windes said, are also dotted with a variety of reefs for snapper and other fish that live around the structures.

“We have a great system and all the time we’re building on it,” he said. “We’ve got some shipwrecks, we’ve got some concrete modules. A lot of private people build ‘em out of chicken coops and I’ve got a boat that deploys those. Some concrete mixer drums occasionally. We’ve only got a very few materials that are permittable by the Corps.”

FAD fishing buoy fact sheet.