Jimmy Jackson Reef Site Grows

OCEAN CITY — The growing artificial reef about six miles off the coast of the resort named in honor of a beloved Ocean City fisherman and sportsman got another significant addition last week when 144 “oyster castles” were deployed on the site.

Captain Monty Hawkins and the crew on the “Morning Star” last weekend took another load of so-called oyster castles to the Jimmy Jackson Memorial Reef about 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City.

Jackson, well known around the marinas in Ocean City and all over the world, died in April 2010 in a diving accident in the Bahamas, but his memory and legacy lives on with a permanent addition to the growing artificial reef system.

Not long after Jackson’s passing, the Ocean City Reef Foundation dedicated a site in his memory about in an area of the Bass Grounds. The first significant addition to the new Jimmy Jackson Memorial Reef went down last year when a retired 50-foot former Baltimore water taxi was sunk over the site. Since then, foundation members have sunk tons of material on the site including “tog condos” and “oyster castles.”

Last weekend, the “Morning Star” crew fashioned 144 blocks into six large block units and dropped them over the Jackson reef in the same area where dozens of “tog condos” were dropped last month. Already, the new additions are crusting over, creating habitat for various species and improved fishing opportunities for local anglers.

“I anticipate these reef blocks will be covered over with growth within a month,” said Hawkins this week. “In several decades, they will be completely covered in coral.”

For more than a decade, the Ocean City Reef Foundation has been steadily expanding the artificial reef system off the coast of the resort with eight sites ranging from as close to shore as one mile to as far as 20 miles. In that span, the foundation has submerged tons of pieces of material, from old boats to retired military equipment to discarded construction material, enhancing habitat for fish and other sea creatures, which, in turn, has improved offshore fishing for recreational anglers and created new opportunities for diving enthusiasts.

Hawkins said it was fitting to create an artificial reef site in Jackson’s name because of what the late angler meant to the local fishing scene.

“Jimmy Jackson fished billfish and tuna with the best of them, but he loved tog fishing too,” he said. “The Reef Foundation is building a large reef in his name just six miles from the sea buoy.”