I’m 60 feet under water and floating above a sunken culvert at Sherman’s Reef, an artificial reef off the coast of southwest Florida. Below me, a school of angelfish circles lazily, barely noticing as I swim overhead.
I dive deeper and come face to face with a goliath grouper, its oversized mouth moving open and closed. These massive fish can grow up to eight feet long and weigh 800 pounds. He stares at me, unimpressed, and moves away.
Goliath grouper, snapper, amberjack, and snook are just some of the fish found in the waters near Fort Myers and Sanibel Island, Florida. Diving here is unique. Since the Gulf of Mexico is so shallow and the sea bottom is sandy, most divers take a 15- to 20-mile boat ride to a network of artificial reefs managed by Lee County. The reefs are an odd assortment of sunken steel ships, concrete slabs, culverts, shrimp boats, and even an old cell phone tower. They create a haven for fish, and opportunities for divers.
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