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Posted on Sun, Feb. 09, 2003 story:PUB_DESC
Texas uses various structures and material to make artificial reefs, providing public housing for marine life.

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

In the underwater world off the Texas coast, piles of steel and concrete, a dozen old World War II ships and even an obsolete tugboat are stashed just off the ocean floor, providing game fish and other marine life with what Dale Shively sees as one off the most beneficial coastal projects ever.

Their varied identities in the past have become one.

Now, they are all artificial reefs.

Like desert oases, these carefully placed stashes of previously unwanted objects provide havens in an otherwise limited habitat.

"The artificial reefs provide invertebrates [coral, barnacles, sponges, clams and hydroids] with a place to attach themselves, and that's the bottom of the food chain that soon begins to attract game fish and other larger fish," said Shively, program coordinator for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's Rigs to Reefs program, which was initiated in 1989.

The artificial reefs often attract divers and anglers, usually trolling or drift fishing beside them or deep fishing straight down from over them for snapper. Divers may want to merely see or photograph marine life -- the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recently held a coastal underwater photography contest -- or they might go spearfishing.

"Some reefs are in 50 to 60 feet of water and some ... are in 200 feet of water," Shively said. "We have about 68 old oil and gas platforms, 12 World War II Liberty Ships, a tanker, one tugboat, one Navy barge, 50 one-ton quarry rocks, 300 coal combustion fly-ash blocks, a large U.S. Navy buoy and more than 132 concrete reef balls."

The use of artificial reefs in the United States dates back to the 1860s, when South Carolina used fallen trees to attract fish off its coast. Texas' first attempt came in 1958, when the old Texas Game and Fish Commission dropped several automobiles into about 60 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico. Since then, several other states -- including Louisiana, Florida, California, Alabama and Georgia -- have started programs similar to Rigs to Reefs.

The artificial reefs fill a void in marine habitat because natural reefs are few and far between, Shively said. The soft, muddy Gulf floor doesn't offer much substrata for algae or invertebrates to attach to and form natural reefs.

Among the oldest artificial reefs off the Texas coast are a dozen old Liberty Ships sunk in the 1970s. The newest are the man-made reef balls, which are underwater "hotels" for small fish. Holes are bored in the hollow concrete reef balls to allow small fish to come and go as they please. Government inspections, an environmental impact statement and a federal permit are required before Texas creates these reefs.

Although almost any large concrete or metal object can be used to create a reef, the old oil and gas platforms have provided the biggest boost to the Texas and Louisiana programs.

Once a rig's usefulness is over, the oil and gas company is required to have it removed, which is costly. Dismantling a rig and leaving it on the ocean floor as an artificial reef is a win-win situation for the oil company that doesn't have to pay to have it removed, for the marine life that is attracted to the structure and for anglers and divers.

"Many of the companies also have donated half of their realized savings from leaving the rigs offshore rather than having to dismantle them and tow them to shore," Shively said.

That money has been given to the Texas Artificial Reef Fund to finance research and the construction of new reefs.

One of the most popular artificial reefs on the Texas coast is the "Mitchell's 12-mile-rig," located 12 miles southeast of the Galveston jetties in about 60 feet of water. It is one of the largest and most easily accessible spots on the Texas coast for anglers with small boats to find red snapper, king mackerel and grouper.

When the Mitchell company decided to abandon the rig in 1999, it had the structure cut into 17 pieces and arranged in three sections to cover more than 100,000 square feet of ocean bottom as a reef.

In addition to the 12-Mile Reef, other popular and easily accessible reefs for small boats include Barr's Reef, located less than a mile from the 12-Mile Reef; Basco's Reef, 23 miles south of Sabine; and the George Vancouver Liberty Ship Reef, nine miles south of Freeport.

Lower-coast shallow-water artificial reefs can be found near Port Aransas and Port Isabel.

Solunar table

King Features Syndicate

Plan your day so you will be fishing good territory or hunting good cover during these times, if you wish to find the best sport that each has to offer.

  A.M. P.M.
Minor Major Minor Major
Today 11:25 5:15 11:55 5:40
Monday -- 6:00 12:10 6:20
Tuesday 12:35 6:40 12:50 7:05
Wednesday 1:20 7:30 1:40 8:05
Thursday 2:20 8:20 2:30 8:45
Friday 3:00 9:10 3:25 9:40
Saturday 3:55 10:05 4:15 10:30
Feb. 16 4:45 10:55 5:05 11:20


Through today: Dallas Boat Show, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Dallas Market Hall. $7 for adults, $3 for ages 4-12, free for children under 4. Two-for-one discount coupons available at Dodge dealers. For information, call (469) 549-0673 or go to

Wednesday: Tarrant County Sportsmen's Club meeting, National Hall, 3316 Roberts Cutoff. Call (817) 731-3402. Other meetings are March 12, April 9 and May 14.

Saturday-Feb. 15: David Alloway's Desert Survival Course, Big Bend Ranch State Park. Other courses are Feb. 28-March 2, March 21-22, Nov. 7-9, Nov. 21-23, Dec. 5-7 and Dec. 19-21. Call (877) 371-2534.

April 3: Tarrant County National Wild Turkey Federation banquet, Lockeed Martin Recreation Center, Fort Worth. Call (817) 731-3402.

April 4-6: David Alloway's Desert Survival Course, Longhorn Ranch. Other courses are April 25-27, May 1-4, May 16-18, Aug. 30-Sept. 1, Oct. 3-5 and Oct. 17-19. Call (877) 371-2634.

Boating-education classes

April 19: At North Richland Hills Recreation Center, 6720 NE Loop 820, North Richland Hills. Other classes are third Saturday of each month through Oct. 18. Call (817) 271-0354.

Hunting seasons

Though Sunday: Western Zone light and dark goose

Through Feb. 23: Statewide quail

Through Feb. 23: Coastal pheasant

Through March 30: Light goose conservation season in East Zone

Monday-March 30: Light goose conservation season in West Zone

March 29-May 4: South Texas spring Rio Grande turkey

April 5-May 11: North Texas spring Rio Grande turkey

April 14-27: East Texas spring eastern turkey

Fishing tournaments

Tuesdays: Working Man's bass at Grapevine; call (817) 726-5688. Working Man's bass at Eagle Mountain; call (817) 282-3815. Evening bass at Pat Cleburne; call (817) 645-0088.

Wednesdays: Working Man's bass at Granbury. Call (817) 291-9025.

Thursdays: Night bass at Weatherford; call (817) 594-6402. Working Man's bass at Grapevine; call (817) 917-8261.

Saturday: Bass North Team at Cedar Creek. Call (817) 439-3274.

Sunday: Lake Granbury/Wal-Mart Tournament Trail team at Granbury. Call (817) 326-0299.

March 1: Pro Team Open Team at Amistad.

March 1: Honey Hole North Team at Granbury. Call (817) 275-1857.

March 8: Media Bass Team at Granbury. Call (972) 222-3751.

March 8: Bass North Individual at Lewisville. Call (817) 439-3274.

March 22: Bass North Team at Lewisville. Call (817) 439-3274.

March 23: Lake Granbury/Wal-Mart Tournament Trail team at Granbury. Call (817) 326-0299.

March 29: Honey Hole North Team at Bridgeport. Call (817) 275-1857.

April 12: Media Bass Team at Eagle Mountain. Call (972) 222-3751.

April 12: Bass North Individual at Richland Chambers. Call (817) 439-3274.

April 19: Honey Hole North Team at Lewisville. Call (817) 275-1857.

April 26: Bass North Team at Richland Chambers. Call (817) 439-3274.

Trout stockings

Thursday: Kidd Springs Park, Dallas

Friday: Lakeside Park, Duncanville

Friday: Hurst Chisholm Park

Feb. 20: Green Valley Community Center Pond A, North Richland Hills

Feb. 22: Bear Creek Park, Keller

March 2: Colleyville Nature Center

March 7: Possum Kingdom Tailrace near Graford

Artificial reefs: High Island

  Distance Water
Reef Structure from land depth
1. A-480 Reef Well, east and west halves 65 155
2. A-532 Reef Well, base and top 75 192
3. A-477 Reef Well, base and top 86 164
4. A-462 Reef Well, base and top 81 178
5. A-487 Reef Well 72 170
6. A-515 Reef Well 78 202
7. A-542 Reef Well 84 230
8. A-567 Reef Wells 87 288
9. A-570 Reef Well, base and top 116 270
10. A-492 Reef Well 75 195
11. A-520 Reef Well 82 238
12. A-285 Reef Well base 75 185
13. A-302 Reef Well, base and top 78 212
14. A-281 Reef Wells 74 185
15. A-298 Reef Wells 80 192
16. A-315 Reef Wells 86 214
17. A-341 Reef Well 95 254
18. A-327 Reef Well base, top, net guard 95 227
19. A-355 Reef Well, base and top 103 305

Texas' Rigs to Reefs program depends on donated oil and gas rigs to create artificial reefs along the Gulf coast. The map below locates almost all of the reefs; some in the High Islander area are not shown because no information was availabe on them. Divers or anglers wishing to find latitudes and longitudes for use with a GPS can go online to

Other areas

    Distance Water
Reef Structure from land depth
20. SALT Reef (HI-85) No material to date 18 43
21. Sabine Reef (HI-117) No material to date 22 36
22. Basco's Reef (HI-117) 50 quarry rocks, 4 buoy pieces,    
  22 concrete anchors 23 50
23. GA-189 Reef Wells 11 60
24. Barr's Reef (GA-189) Concrete culverts, 100 reef balls 12 57
25. George Vancouver      
Liberty Ship Reef (BR-336) Liberty Ship 9 60
26. Freeport Liberty Ship  
reef site (GA-A-22) Tanker, 2 Liberty Ships, wells,
  300 two-ton coal-ash blocks 32 102
27. Galveston-A-125 Reef Well, base and top 65 166
28. Brazos-A-28 Reef Well 50 150
29. Matagorda Island-616 Reef Liberty Ship 24 107
30. Brazos-A-132 Reef Wells 40 200
31. Matagorda Island-712 Reef Deck structure 26 130
32. Boatmen's Reef (MU-746L) Barge, 46 concrete culverts 6 60
33. Lonestar Reef (MU-770L) 3 barges, 2 Liberty Ships 10 72
34. Mustang Island Liberty      
Ship Reef (MU-802) 3 Liberty Ships 18 110
35. Mustang Island-828 Reef Wells 27 165
36. N. Padre Island-967 Reef Well, east and west halves 22 125
37. N. Padre Island-A-58 Reef Well, base and top 35 254
38. N. Padre Island-A-72 Reef Well, base and top 33 254
39. Port Mansfield Liberty      
Ship Reef (PS-1070) Wells, 3 Liberty Ships 15 102
40. Port Isabel-1169L Reef Tugboat, wells, 32 reef balls, barge 7 75

Note: Distance from land is in nautical miles; depth is in feet.

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