The Adolphus Busch has transformed into a great Wreck Dive just offshore in the Florida Keys


On December 5, 1998 the Adolphus Busch was sank intentionally along the reef in the Florida Keys. Yes, this is the family that owns the Busch Brewing Co. It sits upright in the sand in one hundred feet of water. The coordinates for the wreck are Latitude 24-31-841 N and Longitude 081-27-688 W.

Usually when they sink a ship that is to become an artificial reef they blow holes below the waterline with explosives. This one was sank inside the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. That meant explosives were not allowed. They decided to use plan “B” to sink the Busch. This meant cutting large holes, twelve of them in the ship above the waterline. She was towed out to the site where she would be sunk then water was pumped into her. It was cool to watch. When the water began entering the ship through the holes that had been cut, she went under really fast. It landed just as they had hoped, it’s in the upright position.

Diving to Adolphus Busch

The ship is a 210' long freighter. I just punch the Bush in on my GPS and hit the navigate button and it’s 8.5 miles from where I’m sitting at my computer. The heading is 188 degrees, that’s just west of due south. It’s between Looe Key Reef and American Shoal Lighthouse. There are four mooring buoy’s at the Busch. Two are for fishing and two are for diving. This is written on the mooring buoys.

The Adolphus Busch wreck is for snorkeling and diving . The ships tower rises up to within 40' of the surface of the water. Because the ship is in deep water, you’ll have good visibility most of the time. Some of the divers use Nitrox for this dive.

I use just regular dive tanks with no special gases. I use the aluminum 80. This is too deep for my hookah. The hoses on the hookah could also be a problem around a wreck dive.

Adolphus Busch Sinking


From the surface you can see the tower of the Adolphus Busch. As you go deeper the whole ship comes into view. You get to the tower first at 40' down, then at 85' down you get to the main deck. If you go into the wreck and go down into the cargo hold, you’ll be below the sand. That part sits 112' down. The weight of the ship and shifting sand have buried that much of the ship.

It’s neat to see all the marine life an artificial reef supports. I’m really into making habitat for sea creatures. They’ll live on and around anything that’s put down. Artificial reefs take pressure off the coral reef . Lots of divers will choose to dive the wrecks instead of the reef.

Bait fish

It was only a week after the Adolphus Busch had been sunk and some of the Charter Boat Captains were catching nice Sailfish just outside the wreck. There were tons of bait fish already gathering because of the ship. When I’m trolling in this area I will always troll as close to the wreck as I can. If no boats are on the mooring buoys, I’ll troll between them. I’ve caught Spanish and Cero Mackerel as well as King fish here. One time in March, the winds were up so the fish were excited, I was catching schoolie Dolphin inside the wreck in 68' of water. That’s pretty shallow for them.

As you’re diving down you can see lots of bait fish. As you get to the wreck all the marine life and plants come into view. There are huge schools of Grunts, lots of Jacks beautiful tropical fish and always the Barracudas. Beautiful sponges and corals have attached themselves to the hull and decks of the ship. When you go inside the ship you’ll notice fish swimming in and out of the holes that were cut above the waterline to help her sink. They’re large enough for a person to swim thru. When I entered the wheelhouse there was a great big Jewfish. He was just laying there like he owned the place. He must have been in the four to 500 pound range and more than six feet long. He was very fat. I’m not real comfortable getting to close to these guys. I’m afraid they may open their mouth and inhale me as an appetizer. This was way too close quarters for me, it reminded me of being in a cave.

This is a first, July 4, 2010 a rare Sawfish was sighted and videoed at the Adolphus Busch ship wreck. This same videographer also spotted a Lion Fish on this wreck.

I was fortunate enough to have seen this fish a few years ago, my friend Kimm and I were out back at my favorite flat. The tide was coming in so the boat that had been on the beach began to float and I had let more anchor line out. I saw something feeding behind the boat in a couple of feet of water. I thought it was a shark. The fish moved toward the boat and I realized what I was seeing. It was not just one Sawfish, it was three. They swam all around the boat and even between the boat and the anchor, under the anchor line. They were feeding and hang around for a good 20 minutes. These Sawfish were at least 18' to 20' long including the huge toothy saw. I'm so sorry I didn't have a camera with me that day. I'm just glad I had someone with me as a witness.

I saw lots of other fish while diving the Adolphus Busch and three more Jewfish. This is truly a great dive and well worth including in your trip to the Florida Keys.



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