It's been 35 years ago since tons of rubble from the old Destin Bridge was dumped just south of the East Pass, but the fishing spot known today as the Bridge Rubble still produces fish.
"It always produces fish," said Capt. Tommy Browning of the Finest Kind.
"It produced a lot of fish and it was good fishing," Browning said of the early days of the reef that is located about 1 1/2 miles south southeast of the pass.
Amberjack, red snapper, grouper and triggerfish were just a few of the species Browning said they caught.
Even today, he said, they still troll over it and pull in some king mackerel and cobia.
Capt. Harold Staples, who moved here in 1973, a few years before the Bridge Rubble was dumped, said the reef always is full of fish.
Staples recalls that in the early days of the rubble, "it was so close to the pass, nobody was fishing it much to start."
However, Capt. Irby Windes, who has since passed away, started coming in from half day trips loaded down with big triggerfish.
"He did it for several days, before anybody caught on," Staples said. "I said ‘we better pay attention to where he's going.’ ”
They scouted Capt. Windes out and found out he was catching the big triggerfish at the Bridge Rubble.
"It was unbelievable," he said.
In 1985 when Hurricane Elena blew into Biloxi, Miss., it blew some new fish into the neighborhood.
"It brought in the grouper," Staples said. "The grouper just settled in on that rubble."
Capt. Staples said that the Marler boats would just catch hundreds of grouper on the rubble.
"It still makes a lot of fish," Staples said, adding that these days one can find red snapper, amberjack, cobia, flounder and king mackerel.
As a matter of fact, Staples said he recalls Capt. Albert Gibson on the Gotcha catching the winning king mackerel in the Destin Fishing Rodeo one year.
"He caught it dragging a lure over the Bridge Rubble," Staples said. He said he thought the mackerel weighed in at about 78 pounds.
Capt. Buddy Godwin of the Indian Outlaw said he was running a crew boat along with Butch Cheek when they were building the new Destin Bridge.
"They dumped a little bit of it (the rubble) everywhere," Godwin said. "But the main place was just due south, about a mile and a half of the Pass.
"You can catch a little bit of everything there," Godwin added.
But the bad thing today is "everybody knows about it ... so it's fished to death."
Nevertheless, he says, it’s still a good spot.
AT A GLANCE
According to the American Dive Institute, Destin Bridge Rubble is “a large debris field of concrete rubble from the old Destin bridge. Excellent for check-out dives and spearfishing. Depths range from about 60 to 70 feet.
The Okaloosa County Artificial Reef Program distributed the rubble from the bridge in the mid-to-late 1970s.
This site is a well established artificial reef and has a large population of fish. This spot is known for its abundance of flounder. The site is about 1.5 miles southeast of East Pass.
Due to the misdirection of the dump barges by locals, the debris field is larger than originally planned.