AIR FORCE RELAY TOWERS

Min Depth: 35 ft.
Max Depth: 110 ft.

Air Force Relay Towers: Well offshore of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico is a series of huge US Air Force communication relay towers that sit in depths of 35 to 110 feet of water. Each tower is supported by 5 enormous round steel legs that angle at 45 degrees down from just below the water line to the massive concrete pad that anchors the tower. The towers lie anywhere from 10 to 20 miles offshore, and well beyond the 9-mile state line marine limit.

The towers are maintained by the Department of Defense have been out there since the war, some have beacons that still work, others are out of service. The towers were also used for bombing practice which has created many deep holes offering other areas to hold up fish. The towers sit on a broad, empty seafloor plain that is nearly devoid of fish-holding structure, so they are fish magnets that draw huge numbers of fish.

The towers are so isolated and distant that most sport fishing boats never visit them. Moreover, to legally fish the federal waters in which the towers stand, and keep the fish, a Federal Gulf of Mexico Charter Boat Fishing Permit is required.

The towers are teaming with marine life and are stopover spots for migrating species. Since most of the southwest Gulf is hard bottom with no structure, migrating fish are attracted to these towers as a stop over to feed on their way by. The towers offer excellent action for Permit, Kingfish, Wahoo, Amberjack, Cobia and many other species.

The first 20 feet of the water column is dominated by patrols of four-foot-long great barracudas that prowled in tight-packed formations. Adult great barracuda are not known to exhibit schooling behavior. Below, schools of spadefish, permit and crevalle jack circle the tower’s thick legs in polarized packs, while large numbers of mangrove snappers dominate the spaces between the supporting braces. Dropping closer to the bottom reveals the coup de theatre of most dives in the site: Clustered around the bases of the tower’s four massive legs were 33 huge Goliath groupers.

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