Destin officials turn 93-foot military vessel into artificial reef

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Destin, Fla. (WMBB) – The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Tourist Development Department and The United States Air Force worked together to improve the Artificial Reef Program on Friday.

“Today we actually went out and deployed an artificial reef and it wasn’t just any artificial reef, this was a 93-foot military vessel that was donated to us by the US Air Force. It’s name was the big dawg,” said Okaloosa County Coastal Resources Manager with Destin-Fort Walton Beach TDD Alex Fogg. 

According to a release from Board of County Commissioners, Big Dawg was given to the Okaloosa County staff after an official request in June 2020. The Tourist Development Department then spent months ensuring the vessel was environmentally friendly and clean.  

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DreadKnot Charters, a local contractor, was hired to clean, cut holes, and pump water to sink Big Dawg to the bottom of the Gulf.

Fogg said the vessel sank to the seafloor in 104 feet of water and is located 14 miles southwest of Destin pass.

Divers were sent down to check that the artificial reef landed upright and in one piece. Sea turtles had already started to gather around the vessel.

There are other artificial reefs nearby, but Big Dawg is the first large wreck they have deployed in over 10 years.

“This is going to be a great dive spot it’s going to be a great fishing spot because of how shallow it is and how much profile there is,” Fogg said. “Really anyone of any skill level can dive this site but it’s also going to be a really great spot to catch your Amberjack, your Triggerfish, Red Snapper, and all the fish people come to the destination to fish for.”

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