Gray’s Reef Fishing Experience

Photo credit: Nick Zachar

On August 5, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary launched their new online best fishing practices guide to help anglers fish responsibly, get involved in citizen science projects, and make the most of their visits to Gray’s Reef. In today’s guest blog, we spoke with Bob Crimian, the Southeast Ocean Conservation Specialist for The Nature Conservancy and a member of the Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary Advisory Council, to learn more about the Gray’s Reef Fishing Experience. 

What is the goal behind creating the experience? 

Photo credit: Greg McFall

The goal behind creating the experience was to have a guide for anglers (especially those who are new to offshore fishing and/or new to fishing in Georgia) to inform them about Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, the fishing opportunities there, the best fishing practices to use for catching bottom fish like snappers and groupers, and the opportunities to be involved in citizen science efforts. Before the COVID-19 pandemic,  we were having in-person workshops to create an interactive way to provide this information. So instead of meeting in person (which wasn’t an option), we created this dynamic, multimedia experience that anglers can access on Gray’s Reef’s website whenever they want.   

Photo credit: Greg McFall

Where does all the information come from? 

The information comes from a combination of sources. All of our project partners (Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, the University of Georgia  Marine Extension/Georgia Sea Grant, and the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council), along with The Nature Conservancy and FishSmart (a conservation program through American Sportfishing Association (ASA)), provided information for this guide. Additionally, anglers who are familiar with fishing offshore and at Gray’s Reef provided lots of information, especially about best fishing practices. 

Why is this such an important issue in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary?  

Photo credit: Greg McFall

The Nature Conservancy, Gray’s Reef, and all of our project partners want anglers to know that Gray’s Reef is a great place to go fishing in offshore Georgia (excluding the research area). Many long-time anglers we spoke to said Gray’s Reef is a great location for anglers new to offshore fishing or new to the southeast US. Therefore, we want to make sure anglers (new and seasoned) can have the best fishing experience possible by knowing important information like reef habitats, fishing regulations, and how to use best fishing practices like releasing fish going through barotrauma with a descending device.     

Why do we need to look to fishermen as good stewards of special places like sanctuaries? 

Photo credit: Matt McIntosh

Fishermen are some of the best conservation voices and stewards of our ocean. They are on the water much more than resource managers, so they have a huge amount of knowledge, motivation, and stake in making sure places like sanctuaries remain special for years to come. Managers and fishermen have a common goal – to keep fish like snappers and groupers, and their habitat like live-bottom at Gray’s Reef, in healthy condition so their families for generations to come can have the same enjoyment of fishing offshore. 

Finally, are you an angler?  What do you like to fish for and where?

I enjoy fishing, especially with my dad who has been fishing for over 60 years. When he comes to visit we fish from our kayaks in the marshes around Savannah where I live. And when we can, we will take a charter offshore and fish for snappers, groupers, and pelagics like kingfish.