Martin County’s Artificial Reef Program had its infancy in the 1970s, when a group of retirees and sportfishing enthusiasts led by Bill Donaldson – calling themselves the “Reeftirees” – began a movement to create self-sustaining marine habitats. Much about artificial reef deployment has been learned since those early days, making today’s reefs more successful and environmentally sound than ever.
With numerous thriving natural and artificial reefs along Martin County’s shores, the area truly lives up to its reputation as the “Treasure Coast.” Each reef offers a bounty of rich aquatic life, creating ideal locales for saltwater anglers and recreational divers. Offshore, the prevailing north current allows boaters to begin at the southern end of these sites and drift north across a two-mile stretch of diverse reef environments.
The offshore reef sites include the Donaldson, Ernst and Sirotkin Reef Sites. Each of these three permitted reef areas contain several artificial reefs which have been deployed over the past several years, and additional reef materials continue to be added to these areas. In 2003 new materials were added to the Sirotkin Reef Site, including a ship (the Wickstrom) a barge (High Queen salvaged tugboat remnants on Zeppo barge), and concrete railroad ties. 2002 additions to the Sirotkin Reef Site included a barge (the Tree barge) and concrete tetrahedrons.
Martin County’s nearshore reef sites are located in the Atlantic Ocean between the Stuart and Jensen Public Beach Parks. These three artificial reef sites were established in 2000, in order to provide mitigation for potential impacts to the nearshore reefs from the Hutchinson Island Beach Renourishment Project. The material used for the nearshore reefs was the concrete debris from the removal of the Evans Crary Bridge, which was replaced with a high-rise bridge crossing the St. Lucie River between Stuart and Sewalls Point. This material consisted of concrete bridge pieces, predominantly pilings, with some deck span pieces.
Martin County’s Artificial Reef Program now offers over a dozen outstanding sites for fishing and dive exploration – and the number continues to grow. There is no better way to appreciate our area’s natural treasures than to fish and explore these waters. We invite you to dive in!