The Proposed Okaloosa County (north central Gulf of Mexico) recreational fishing Buoy/Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) System was approved as a means to improve catches of billfish and other species. The stated hope of county officials is to transform the region from targeting reef fish (especially red snapper) to targeting pelagic fish, including billfish. The eight surface buoys, with no trailing lines, floats or attached streamers, will be placed inside DeSoto Canyon in water of 1,191 to 2,359 feet in depth.

While many prefer FAD fishing for it saves time, fuel and usually places their boats where fish abundance is greater; others consider FAD fishing similar to shooting fish in a barrel.  It is important to note that FADs do not increase the production of fish, they attract or cause fish to aggregate under the placed floating object coming from other areas.  Management, monitoring, and responsible site use, sometimes rotating from among dispersed FADs, is recommended to prevent fishing out local stocks of fish attracted to the FAD. 

This is the first time a FAD project of this nature will be implemented in the continental US – similar programs are successful off Puerto Rico and Hawaii. One thing of note, the Gulf already have a number of “FADs” if you take into account the number of offshore oil rigs but this allows anglers from the FL panhandle easier access to pelagic species. Surrounding states are looking at the project and seeing how much use and success come from the FAD deployment.

TBF will be monitoring the situation and keep you updated.