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History of the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association

In August 1984, the Long Bay Artificial Reef Association was formed by a group of fishermen in the Holden Beach, Long Beach and Sunset Harbor area of Brunswick County.   This non-profit organization launched an aggressive reef-building campaign.  What they proposed was to establish five artificial reef sites in five years.

 Five reef sites may not seem like a lot, but considering that only one had been established in Brunswick County, and each reef cost from $20,000 to $60,000, this was an ambitious program.   It was a program, however, which the Reef Association was determined to put in place.  As President Dale McDowell stated, “We wanted to establish new areas to support the basic marine life needed to improve the fisheries.  But we weren’t interested in just throwing junk in the ocean.  We wanted to do things right.”

 With cooperation from the North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries, the LBARA outlined the five reef sites and began to seek funding.  It was a difficult task, but McDowell and his associates proved resourceful.  They soon received $10,000 from the Brunswick County Commissioners.

 Their first project, AR 420, began on September 6, 1986.  The original reef consisted of a 104 ft YSD vessel. 

Over the years, the LBARA has complied an impressive record.  Those five reefs were established by 1992.  These sites have been enhanced through the years by the addition of tugboats, barges and millions of pounds of concrete pipe and over 1500 “Reef Balls”.

Reef Ball
An example of a "Reef Ball"

In June 1996, a seventh reef, AR 465 “Gary Ennis Reef” was established. The Mance Lassiter, a former menhaden boat 184’ long was sunk 30 miles off Lockwood Folly Inlet.  The Charlotte Offshore Sport Fishing Club in honor of Gary Ennis, friend, officer and sportsman funded this project.

A 1998 project introduced “Reef Balls” to North Carolina placing 100 on each of four reef sites.

 In 2002 the entire fishing community lost a good friend and fisheries champion in Dale Ward.  Dale, an employee of the NCDMF was a leader in conservation and spent many of his own hours making our fisheries better.

 The US Open King Mackerel Tournament had requested LBARA to petitioned the NCDMF to name an existing reef in honor of Dale Ward.  This request was granted, and AR 455 became the Dale Ward Reef.   The US Open KMT donated over $8,000.00 to enhance the site.  This was accomplished by the addition of Ultra Reef Balls, concrete pipe and the 110’ tugboat Pawtucket.  The US Open KMT continues to enhance the Dale Ward Reef and support the LBARA.

Also in 2002 LBARA recognized a great opportunity with the announcement of the proposed demolition of forty-year-old Frying Pan Tower and possible destruction of some of the best marine growth and life in the Carolinas.  Many telephone calls and E-mails followed over the next few months.  In February 2003, AR 400, the eighth LBARA reef was born.

The year 2004 brought the 20th anniversary of LBARA. The NCDMF helped celebrate this event by honoring President Dale McDowell, naming AR 445.  “ Now and Forever,” The Dale McDowell Reef.   

Another artificial reef first was introduced in 2006 by LBARA with the enhancement of AR 465. The project, four years in the making was funded entirely by the Federal Sportfish Restoration Act.

  This funding was the first of this kind by an artificial reef group in NC history.  Sportfish Restoration Act Grants are financed by taxes imposed on fishing tackle manufacturers and is shared by fresh and saltwater programs alike.

Also in 2006 the first joint venture between LBARA and Onslow Bay Artificial Reef Association was started.  The Menhaden vessel Coastal Mariner was purchased and christened the Captain Gregg MicKey and was sunk in August 2007 on AR 400 Frying Pan Tower Reef.

 In September of 2007 AR 400 was formally named the “Bob Black Tower Reef” by the NCDMF.  This was in recognition for Bob’s contributions to LBARA and the effort dedicated to establishing AR 400.

 In 2008 President Dale McDowell retired from the LBARA after 24 years of service and incredible accomplishments.  He will be missed.

 LBARA was fortunate to replace Dale with Andy Fisher, a veteran saltwater fisherman and experienced leader in saltwater matters.  Andy has served numerous terms as the President of the Charlotte Offshore Sportfishing Club and has worked for and supported LBARA for over a decade.  Andy is a full time resident of Oak Island and we welcome him aboard. 

The NCDMF Recognizes LBARA as one of the most successful artificial reef associations in the Southeast and frequently use them as a model for new associations.

We sincerely hope that you will find this Reef Guide beneficial to your fishing experience.  As you use the information provided please take a moment to reflect on the various dates of deployments and you will see that LBARA is dedicated to continuing the growth and enhancement of the artificial reef program.

Success is our trademark.  Since formation we have met and exceed all goals.  Quoting former President Dale McDowell, “ As long as the funds are available we are willing and capable of implementing the logistics of the projects.”  Thank you for your support now and in the future.


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Long Bay Artificial Reef Association 11th Annual Club Challenge King Mackerel and Flounder Tournament