DESTIN, Fla. (WMBB) — After a five-year process, the final Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) buoy was deployed off the coast of Destin in the Gulf of Mexico last week.

Named the Captain Kelly Windes FAD Buoy Network after former Okaloosa County commissioner Captain Kelly Windes, this is the first FAD buoy network to be deployed in the continental United States.

“It’s been done in the Caribbean, in Hawaii, but never here,” said Alex Fogg, Okaloosa County coastal resource manager.

Fogg said the majority of the five-year process was dedicated to permitting. The first buoy of the eight-buoy system was deployed in August 2020. The buoys are located 60 to 80 miles off the coast of Destin and Fort Walton Beach.

FAD buoy locations
FAD Buoy
Number
LatitudeLongitudeDepth (ft)Deployment
Date
129° 31.699-87° 02.6331,1911/20/2021
229° 27.387-87° 07.1981,6108/11/2020
329° 23.334-87° 11.3461,8228/11/2020
429° 18.691-87° 15.5492,3591/20/2021
529° 26.910-86° 52.8641,6501/20/2021
629° 20.887-86° 52.7481,7158/11/2020
729° 14.914-86° 52.8151,8308/11/2020
829° 08.847 –-86° 52.6121,8471/20/2021
*the exact location may vary by ~500ft due to buoy movement around the anchor.

“We had the first four that went in right before Hurricane Sally and all the active hurricane season we had, and they all survived, no problem no damage,” Fogg said. 

But now that the buoys are all deployed, Fogg said they are designed to attract fish similarly to artificial reefs.

“Way offshore there’s really not very many features so when fishermen go out there and find let’s say a weed patch or a piece of floating wood, a lot of times there’s going to be fish associated with that structure,” Fogg said. “So putting these buoys out there actually provides an opportunity for fishermen to go out and actually target some of these pelagic species of fish. But it also provides a habitat for them [the fish] to help them along with their life history as well.”

Fogg added that hopefully, these buoys will attract more than just fish.

“A lot of folks go for pelagic species of fish: your marlin, your tuna, your mahi-mahi. They have to go extremely, extremely far offshore from Destin, or they’re traveling to other destinations to target those fish,” Fogg said. “By having these FADs here, we’re hoping that people will come to the destination and actually start targeting those fish.”

“And because of some of the increased regulations on our reef fish species, it provides another opportunity for folks to go fishing.”