Martin County’s Artificial Reef Program began in the 1970s, when a group of retirees and sport fishing 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 reefs are located within the Donaldson, Ernst, Sirotkin and South County Reef Sites. Each of these four permitted areas contain several artificial reefs which have been deployed over the years. Additional reef materials continue to be added to these areas. The Martin County Utilities and Solid Waste Department works with the Martin County Artificial Reef Program to secure materials of opportunity by allowing contractors to dispose of clean concrete free of charge and storing the material for the program. This material of opportunity greatly reduces the cost of creating reefs and redirects the material to a beneficial use rather than to a landfill. Recent deployments include the Hailey Glasrud Reef (a steel vessel) in the Sirotkin and numerous concrete rubble reefs in the Donaldson.
Martin County’s nearshore reef sites are located between the Stuart and Jensen Public Beaches. 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 offers over ninety-five 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!