New Oyster Reefs Will Improve Fishing

A new oyster reef in Biloxi Back Bay could become a future hot spot for coast fishermen.

The Department of Marine Resources is planting several reefs to attract game fish. Tidelands money is paying for the program, which will eventually include all three coastal counties.

A high pressure water hose blew piles of oyster shells off the deck of the "Conservationist" and into the water of Back Bay near the Forrest Avenue pier. Using water pressure to plant the shells is both simple and effective.

"It's the easiest and it's probably the best because it tends to distribute them evenly along the bottom, and that's what we like to see. Where we can cover as much area as possible out here," said biologist Dale Diaz.

The idea of building a reef to improve fishing is basic biology. These oyster shells are living creatures that help attract and create other underwater life, including game fish.

Mike Buchanan is the Fin fish Director for the Department of Marine Resources.

"The idea being that we will develop a viable reef out here which attracts certain prey items which attracts fish that people enjoy catching," Buchanan said. "That's the general idea."

Inshore fishermen who cast their bait from Back Bay piers will benefit most. The Forrest Avenue reef is within easy casting distance of the new pier.

"Everything we're putting out right now is live. It's got a lot of mussels that will attract some smaller fish and different things that will feed on the reef, which in turn will hopefully attract some fish for the recreational fishermen," Diaz said.

The work at the Forrest Avenue pier is just the beginning of the reef building program. The DMR will soon be building similar reefs near the Pascagoula municipal pier, the Long Beach harbor pier and the Ulman Avenue pier in Bay St. Louis.