Old Ship About To Become A Mississippi Fishing Reef

Billy Wise can't wait for his dive group's next Mississippi trip -- especially if a 180 foot supply boat is part of his underwater adventure.

"I can picture the divers cruising on the top of this wreck right here looking for fish," he said while standing on the deck of the empty ship, "taking photos of the fish, taking photos of the fellow divers and exploring the wreck that we have here."

For the last five months, volunteers from the Mississippi Gulf Coast Fishing Banks have scraped away anything that made the Gwen Tide an environmental hazard.

"This new environmental and economic asset was made possible through the generosity of Tidewater Inc., a Louisiana based marine company," Michael Jenner, President of Mississippi Gulf Coast Fishing Banks said.

Jim Taylor is with the fishing banks group. "All of us want to do this type thing to help the fish populations," he said.

The empty ship is finally read for its final voyage -- a trip to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. It will become Mississippi's newest off shore fishing reef.

"We have our oil rigs," Wise said, referring to his dive group. "But this would be spectacular for them to get a hold of and dive here."

Every one of the port holes and doors on the ship will be an attraction for divers and for recreational fishermen. The vessel will end up in 90 feet of water south of east Horn Island. Red snapper, lemon fish and grouper will be swimming all around it.

DMR expert Kerwin Cuevas had to certify that the Gwen Tide is now environmentally safe. He said once it's sunk, "It will just be schools of fish utilizing the whole reef area."

The Gwen Tide becomes a wreck at the bottom of the gulf sometime next week.

Last year, the gulf coast fishing banks completed a similar reef project. Back then, it cleaned and sank old national guard tanks. Cuevas said that project proved to be very successful for local fishermen.