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Fish Aggregating Devices • When Fishing Is More Than a Fad

Fish Aggregating Devices • When Fishing Is More Than a Fad

Fish Aggregating Devices - When Fishing is More Than a FAD
Fish Aggregating Devices - When Fishing is More Than a FAD
Fish Aggregating Devices - When Fishing is More Than a FAD
Fish Aggregating Devices - When Fishing is More Than a FAD
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Fish Aggregating Devices - When Fishing is More Than a FAD

Destin-Ft. Walton Beach deployed eight Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) – officially known as the Captain Kelly Windes Fish Aggregating Device Buoy Network – 60-80 miles offshore.

When an offshore Captain abruptly changes the boat’s course, it usually means he spotted something in the distance. Captains continuously scan the horizon looking for anything’ fishy.’ Fish breaking the surface, a school of bait or something floating on the surface brings excitement and the potential of a hook-up!

Spend any time offshore and what you see floating will amaze you. Objects that have either washed out to sea from shore or items that have fallen off passing ships or other boats. Logs, pallets, plywood, even the occasional hull of an abandoned boat will more often than not hold some type of fish either below or around it.

A piece of flotsam in open water is a double-edged sword for small baitfish. It provides a structure in which they can hide from larger fish, but as they congregate in one condensed spot, it also draws the attention of larger predator fish.

In our part of the fishing world, finding these floating treasures in the Gulf is a bit of a needle-in-the-haystack situation. As big as a four by eight sheet of plywood looks in your garage, it can be tough to spot until you are right on top of it in the middle of the Gulf. Currents and wind can also move these objects miles in a single day — if you find it today, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to find it later in the day, let alone on your next trip offshore.

But thanks to the foresight, dogged persistence, and generosity of ‘Destin-Fort Walton Beach,’ the tourism department of Okaloosa County, finding floating, fish-holding structures is no longer just about getting lucky! The agency recently completed deploying eight Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) – officially known as the Captain Kelly Windes Fish Aggregating Device Buoy Network – 60-80 miles offshore.

FADs have long been popular in other parts of the world. I have caught Blue Marlin around FADs in the Dominican Republic, and the state of Hawaii has a robust FAD network to help charters and local boats find fish.

“The fish aggregating devices deployed offshore Destin – Fort Walton Beach are the first to be legally deployed in the continental United States,” said Alex Fogg, Coastal Resource Manager of Destin-Fort Walton Beach. “Not only do the buoys create habitat for a wide variety of pelagic species, but it provides a consistent location for anglers to target highly prized fish like Marlin, Wahoo, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi.” These FADs are a welcome new option instead of making the extra-long haul to the oil platforms off the Louisiana coast.

“This network also provides the perfect platform to conduct research in an area that is relatively hard to access consistently. We are working with multiple organizations to track human use as well as fish interaction with these buoys and even connect with other areas like the oil platforms to the west,” said Fogg. Some of the FADs are equipped with onboard weather stations, allowing for much needed real-time offshore reports.

Surface buoys tethered to anchors on the Gulf floor moor the new FADs. The eight buoys float in depths ranging from 1,100-2,400 feet and provide an easy visual confirmation for captains. Marine growth forms on all parts of the FAD, and soon the entire aquatic food chain will become present. Small baitfish will find their way to these new pieces of structure, and pelagic fish soon follow the baitfish (they always do!). It’s the same marine environment, albeit on a much smaller scale, that makes offshore oil rigs and platforms such popular places for pelagic fish and anglers.

Okaloosa County, anxious to get fishing feedback, immediately released the FAD’s GPS coordinates. There are already multiple reports of Blue Marlin caught around the first four FADs. There is no doubt, many more fish will be caught around the FADs this year with a full year of boats trolling around the devices.

FAD #1 87.04388 29.52832
FAD #2 87.11997 29.45645
FAD #3 87.18910 29.38890
FAD #4 87.25915 29.31152
FAD #5 86.88107 29.44850
FAD #6 86.87913 29.34812
FAD #7 86.88025 29.24857
FAD #8 86.87687 29.14745

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