CHINCOTEAGUE, VA --- The Virginia Marine Resources Commission sank almost four dozen donated New York City subway cars off the coast here in a daylong operation Thursday to expand an artificial fishing reef.
"These surplus subway cars are fish magnets that provide shelter for a variety of marine species and attract prized gamefish," said VMRC Commissioner Steven G. Bowman. "We're very pleased to be able to help our recreational anglers with this reef expansion and very grateful to the New York City Metropolitan Transit Authority."
Since the early 1970s, VMRC has worked to establish an extensive artificial reef system throughout the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's coastal waters. The agency now has 23 reefs, many of them quite large, formed from old concrete pipes, demolished bridges, the remains of piers and a lighthouse, or surplus equipment such as subway cars, armored personnel carriers or old Liberty-class ships. The material duplicates the natural nooks and anomalies of the water bottom, providing habitat for marine life and aiding in the development of a food web that attracts large predator fish.
Funds for the maintenance and expansion of the reef program are augmented by money collected from the sale of saltwater fishing licenses, in keeping with a VMRC philosophy that license fees should be used to benefit anglers.
In Thursday's reef expansion operation, 44 stainless steel subway cars donated by New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority were shoved over the side of a barge in a grid pattern to expand Blackfish Bank Reef.
That reef is located off the coast of Chincoteague and is 5.8 miles southeast of Assateague in Maryland. The subway cars now rest in 65 feet of water near 50 New York City "Redbird" subway cars sunk in November 2003 and 40 Army-donated surplus armored personnel carriers deployed in 1998. The cars each were 50 feet long and their combined weight was 17 tons.
"We have an artificial reef system that is the envy of other coastal states and the fishing here is tremendous," said Commissioner Bowman. "Come try it. You won't be disappointed."
The exact locations of each reef, and their composition, can be found at http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/reef_map/reef_map.shtm. Specifics on Blackfish Bank Reef can be found at http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/vsrfdf/blackfish_reef.shtm.