Artificial reef pilot project becomes home for marine life in Hernando County

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — Dozens of reef balls made of shell and saltwater friendly concrete were dropped off the coast of Hernando County back in November to create an artificial reef. 

This weekend a team of SCUBAnauts dove down to check on their progress in just six months. 

Artificial Reef created in hopes of bringing fishermen and snorkelers to Hernando County

"The reef balls are actually doing quite well. Every time you’d go to it you’d see a new fish there that you hadn’t seen before," said diver Zack Morris.  

"A lot of sea bass, juvenile grouper, lots of bait fish," said Keith Kolasa of the Hernando County Marine Program.

Like algae covered condominiums built in a place that really needed housing, the pilot project is creating artificial reefs 6 miles off the coast of Hernando County. 

"You have to go 20-30 miles offshore to find tropical fish and structure. This puts the structure closer to shore so families with small boats can go out there and fish and snorkel," said Kolasa.

But for diver Cole Kolasa, this project didn’t start six months ago, it started a year ago when he heard about his father working on the artificial reef and wanted to help.

"It was an idea to paddle down the coast and draw some attention to my hometown and see what we can do," said Cole Kolasa.

The plan was kayaking 800 miles from the Panhandle to the Keys to raise money and awareness for the artificial reef.  Though his journey ended about 75 miles short after running into a tropical storm, he raised $3,000 to help make the reef balls. On Sunday he was excited to dive down and see their progress.

"It was exciting going down and seeing them because there was a whole process of building them and then moving them out here on a barge and picking the right spot. So seeing them down there actually bringing in fish and crabs and all sorts of other things is very exciting," said Cole Kolasa. 

The hope is the pilot project is successful and the county can use BP Oil Spill money to create more artificial reef habitats for marine life near Florida’s Nature Coast.

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