M.R. Montgomery’s Reef. 70 degrees from end of jetties, 8.5 miles. This natural depression in the ocean floor has the greatest depth of water in a 9 mile area from the St. Johns River, 76 to 78 ft. In the northern part of the area lies a ledge or reef 3 to 4 feet in height. There are appliances and miscellaneous junk scattered throughout the area. We have placed a barge full of concrete culverts to help replenish this reef. Fishing seems good all year round.
In late 1975, between 2,500 and 3,000 old tires were added to the club’s original reef, Montgomery Reef. In 1977, 400 tons of concrete culvert pipe were placed on Montgomery Reef.
This artificial reef area is named for Monty Montgomery. Monty owned Monty’s Marina and allowed the JOSFC to meet there until the building was sold. I don’t know a lot about Monty, but he was a strong supporter of the Club. His facilities provided a place and the atmosphere that was needed to make the club successful.
The M.R. area was the first artificial reef constructed by the JOSFC. At that time, just about any and everything that would not float was considered to be acceptable material for building a reef. There were car bodies, stoves, refrigerators, tires and assorted pieces of junk. But, when properly placed they made what any modern art critic could consider to be a master piece of epic proportions.
During that period of time I was very active in diving as well as sport fishing. At a diving club meeting one evening, everyone was taking their turn reporting on the previous week’s diving and spear-fishing trips. When Fred’s turn came, he appeared to be enthusiastic and excited.
Fred began, “We dove the art work at M.R. last Sunday. I know you’re not gonna believe this, but it is the best trip I’ve ever had. As I started over to the reef I could see grouper and snapper all over the place
As I approached the main structure, I saw a big snapper, probably about 25 pounds. That sucker, believe it or not, was in the oven of an old gas range. I was just about ready to put some steel in that dude, when I saw out of the corner of my eye, this big Mamma grouper puttin’ the eye on me. I slammed the oven door shut on the snapper and told him I’d be back for him later.
Fred paused, furrowed his brow and continued. “It took 5 minutes, but I finally got into position behind a water heater and then I let the rod fly. Blast! Wouldn’t ya know it… bad hit… too far to the rear and above the spine. When that line came tight, he yanked me off that water heater like I’d taken 220 volts of electricity.”
“The only time I managed to slow him down is when he ran into an old Sears 18 Cubic foot upright freezer. It took him just about two seconds to break the back out of it and only slightly longer for him to pull me through it, behind him. Then he bounced me off more junk than you can imagine.” Fred paused for breath and then continued, “Finally, he broke away from the main reef and started across the sand with me in full tow!” Fred shouted, “What a ride!”
“All of a sudden, the grouper spots a Nash Cosmopolitan, makes a hard right and runs straight over and tries to get into it. Won’t work… cars’ to small.” Fred stopped, got a real serious look on his face and began to speak in a low, almost quiet tone.
“Then the strangest thing happened. He stopped, turned around, and looked me square in the eye. Then he did a slow 360 degree turn and looked at me again. Then, I saw it. Just about 20 feet away was the biggest shark in the Atlantic, and commin’ right at us!”
“Well, I turned back to get to the main reef, when the line tightened up and this time we’re doing mach one, headed for an old ’49 Buick Roadmaster. The grouper took the back seat and I took the front. It took me just about 5 seconds to shut both doors and get the windows rolled up.”
“That shark must have swam around that old Buick 50 times. One time, he even put his face on the windshield. Finally, the shark left. I looked in the back seat and this big ole grouper was lookin’ at me with his mouth and gills opening and closing like a dog doin’ some heavy pantin’.
“Don’t really know if man and fish can bond, but if it’s possible, it happened that day. Anyway,” he said, “I removed the shaft and he seemed grateful. I got out of the car and opened the back door for the grouper. He kinda looked at me as if to say, ‘I’ll stay here awhile.'”
“Yes sir,” Fred mumbled in a low voice, ” that was some trip. Yep, a real good one.” Fred left the podium and started back to his seat. “Hey!” someone yelled. “What about the snapper?”
“The snapper?” Fred asked. “Oh, the snapper…. Well, it took a while to get that old stove to the surface, but we finally got it dried out and that sucker lit right off. We just baked the snapper right there. He was so big, we called all the boats in the area to come over for lunch and then…”
“Fred!” the group yelled, “Sit down and shut up!”
“Well?” Fred mumbled as he walked back to his seat, “It’s the truth!”
I don’t think I’ll ever go to the M.R. and not think about the old group that used to meet at Monty’s and of course, Fred.