Suwannee Regional Reef System
It was through the research and scientific discoveries of the Suwannee Regional Reef System that justified development of the Steinhatchee Fisheries Management Area.The Suwannee Regional Reef System was built during the early 1990's as a large-scale experimental reef system to help determine how reefs function. The main goal was to find an answer to the whole attraction-production issue. Before now, it was unknown whether artificial reefs served to produce more fish or merely attracted the fish to a specific location.
In total, 132 reef cubes were distributed equally among 22 reef sites (see map above). In 1996, coordinates for nine of the reef sites were made public. In 1998, a comparison was made between the abundance of gag grouper between reef sites that were made public and those that were not. After two years of public fishing, gag grouper still dominated at both the public and private reef sites, although the size and number of fish at the public sites was much less. In the first year of public fishing, only 12% of the grouper on the public sites were legal, compared to 43% on the private sites. In the second year, the results were similar. Other fish such as cobia, red grouper, and hogfish were reduced in size and numbers at the public reef sites, but not to the extent of gag grouper.
From these findings, it was determined that fishing mortality on artificial reefs can be substantially reduced by simply not advertising the reef locations. Artificial reef systems whose locations are not made available to the public may not immediately contribute to the angler's daily limit, but they are proven to benefit both fish and fisherman by increasing fish productivity, reducing the need for increased regulation and reduced catch limits, and creating more "fishy water."