South Florida anglers got a shock this past weekend when they went to catch live bait at perhaps the most popular artificial reef in the region: Bug Light, a decommissioned navigational marker in Biscayne Bay off Cape Florida that has served as a haven for bait fish and roosting sea birds for decades, was gone.
“A sad, sad day,” Miami charterboat captain Terry Claus texted. “It affects the weekend fisherman as well as the charter boats that relied on the bait that congregated there. That was the best artificial reef we had out here and they just ripped it out and towed it off.”
The “they” Claus referred to was a contractor hired by the U.S. Coast Guard to demolish Bug Light due to “degradation to its structure,” according to Petty Officer Mark Barney, a Coast Guard spokesman. He said the tower will not be replaced.
Even though fishermen traveled from as far away as Palm Beach and Islamorada to catch pilchards, threadfin herring, speedos and other bait fish at the old tower, few knew about the plans to remove it. Miami Beach environmental activist captain Dan Kipnis said he tried to find a private corporation to take over maintenance of the structure, “but I couldn’t get any traction.”
Several other popular inshore bait-fishing spots also are about to disappear.
The Coast Guard contracted with Hallandale Beach-based Shoreline Foundation Inc., to remove six range markers that guide big ships through Government Cut to the Port of Miami at night. Four of the towers have stood for more than 50 years; the other two are temporary. The four new structures will be tall, thin pipes replacing the bulkier platforms with legs that attract marine life.
Shoreline spokesman Ben Mostkoff said the company won’t remove the old markers until about mid-September. Completion of the project, he said, would come around the end of October.
Mostkoff, who worked as Miami-Dade County’s artificial reef chief from the 1980s through early ’90s, wants to turn the former markers into havens for fish and other sea creatures, even though the company’s contract calls for disposing of them on land.
“While it calls for placing them in garbage containers, we are pursuing the option of using them for artificial reef material,” he said.
Meanwhile, navigational markers in Everglades National Park also are on the chopping block. The Coast Guard published a Notice to Mariners last week saying it is considering transferring ownership of a number of aids to navigation to the National Park Service. It is also contemplating removing all markers that guide boaters through the shallows of the Flamingo region from Coot Bay to near the mouth of the Little Shark River.
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Those projects are not a done deal, however. The public has until Oct. 1 to submit comments at D07-SMB-DPWPublicComments@uscg.mil.