All Decked Out

All Decked OutSubmerged Lighting Can Enhance Your Waterfront Property  By Zandra Wolfgram

For Brad Ball, the light bulb went on when his fishing light fizzled. Well, actually it was more of a 150-watt metal Halide lamp, to be more specific, but that came later …

When Ball, CEO for Deep Glow Technologies, could not find a well-made, easy-to-install, seaworthy underwater fishing light on the market for his birthday, he set out to create one. Now, after nearly four years, Deep Glow continues to light up residential decks, commercial docks, even special events on the water, and plenty of faces, too.

An avid fisherman who grew up in St. Petersburg, Ball’s passion for fishing and his entrepreneurial drive proved to be a winning combination. But he’s quick to point out he has not made a success of Deep Glow on his own. Though he had underwater lighting and marine-related experience, he recruited Kevin Ahearn, now president of Deep Glow, to spearhead the manufacturing. After spending a year developing the prototype in Korea, they moved production back to the U.S. to Pinellas Park, Fla., with final assembly and shipping arranged in St. Petersburg, Fla. And the rest is one glowing fish tale after another.

Based in Tampa with clients in Florida, Texas, New York, New Jersey and California, Deep Glow claims to be the answer to the demand for quality lighting products for use at primary and secondary homes, hotels, restaurants, yacht clubs, parks, zoos and entertainment venues.

There are certainly other companies who design and sell underwater lighting in Florida and across the country. But Deep Glow’s CEO says its secret to creating “the Discovery Channel in your back yard” is the “magical combination” of durability, efficiency and high intensity of color.

The concept is simple: Shine it and they will come. The right intensity of submerged lighting attracts a variety of marine life and baitfish, which lure still larger fish. David Yates, a long time fly fisherman of Fort Walton Beach, said he was happily lured in by Deep Glow.

“They are pretty pricey ($399 per light),” Yates said. “But those guys went through many iterations to get it right. And they did get it right.”

After many hit and misses with fishing lights that shine onto the water’s surface, Yates learned of Deep Glow from a neighbor who spotted them online. Last summer, Yates purchased three of the four lights offered — white, green and blue (it also comes in red) — and installed two of them last summer. He was impressed with the ease of installation.

“It’s nothing,” he says. “You just grab the line, which has about a 14-pound weight on it, and throw it in.”

As promised, the lights right themselves once they reach the water’s bottom. The lights are intended for depths up to 20 feet, and cast a glow as far as 50 feet.

For Yates, one consolation to the price is the operation cost.

“The lights only need a couple amps to run. We pay $30 a month to run condo lights on our dock and when we installed the lights, they couldn’t tell the difference. It’s cheap,” he says.

For further economy, lights can be installed on either timers or light sensors. The bulbs last about 5,500 hours, or up to two years if you use them eight hours a day.

Maintenance is low as well. The corrosion-proof housing ensures durability against the elements. Their sturdy construction is designed to withstand currents, prop wash and natural debris. According to Yates the upkeep amounts to “pulling them up once in a while, knocking off the oysters and throwing them back in.”

One thing the underwater lights do not attract is bugs. And according to Frank Sargeant with Florida Sportsman, who reviewed the lights in July 2009, another bonus is a lack of surface glare.

“There’s no squinting to spot the fish — they are clearly outlined because the light is below them, pointed upward … it’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” he wrote in his review.

Though he can’t say whether the white or the green light attracts more fish, Yates says the green light is the way to go for “prettiness.” Besides the aesthetics of the alluring colors sure to deck out any dock, the lights do the job. Yates rattles off the many types of fish now drawn to his dock.

“At 3 a.m. last night, the water was dirty and I still saw at least 50 fish — Sea Trout, Ladyfish, Bluefish and Lookdowns — there are many more fish now, it’s like a giant aquarium,” he says.

But don’t expect schools overnight. Yates is convinced the “fish experience a learning curve, too.” Once adjusted to the location of the new light, their numbers grow each day.

Fish are not the only thing Yates is attracting. When his first lamp burned out, before he could replace it with one of the two bulbs Deep Glow shipped “right off,” neighbors and local anglers enjoying the new fishing hole pestered him daily to get it replaced. 

“They said I should put up a box on my dock and charge admission,” he confesses.

It’s no bother to Yates if someone shares his colorful fishing hole.

“I’m a catch and release guy,” he explains. “I don’t catch the fish off my dock, I just watch them. When I want to eat fish, I buy them from the market.”

Yates predicts that once Deep Glow catches on, Northwest Florida will be hooked.

“They are all over South Florida, but once more people see these lights up in Destin and so on, everyone will want them,” he says.

If Deep Glow’s growing client base from Pensacola to Panama City is any indication, they are as popular as live bait. You can see examples of Deep Glow’s vibrant lighting at Bayou Joe’s waterfront restaurant in Panama City.

Sherry and Doug Wager of Perdido Key are the first residents in Northwest Florida to outfit their 90-foot dock with underwater lights from Deep Glow in late spring of last year. Though they’ve lived on the water since 1989 and installed many types of lights on their dock over the years, they had one word for their new green-hued lights: “fantastic.” 

If you think of fishing as requiring a lot of luck and plenty of patience, once you install underwater lights, you might want to think again. And if you enjoy the ritual of wiling away the evening losing track of time while yearning for a bite, submerged lights may not be for you. Take it from Doug Wager, “It doesn’t take long to catch a fish that’s for sure. You better have your net ready.”

An offshore angler who enjoys hooking speckled trout and redfish, Wager says the above water lights used to attract pinfish for bait. Now, with underwater lights, his favorites are just “swarming” around his dock.

Though luck appears to be on his side most nights, he doesn’t test it much. He is satisfied to simply observe the abundant sea life, including porpoises, right from his bedroom window.

“It’s a joy to watch,” he said.

What’s next for Deep Glow? Now that they mastered their main product, they are focusing on enhancing its application. Ball said they are designing a new ballast to operate multiple lights and testing a 12-volt version on boats for night fishing. Having attracted clients from around the world, they are also going global, with projects in Dubai and Bahrain, including illuminating a race track with 26 red and green lights.

Apparently, Deep Glow’s secret has surfaced.

Forget the halls, deck out the dock.

With amazing coastal views and sub-tropical climes in Northwest Florida, it’s only natural for home owners to want to expand their living area to the outdoors. But you don’t have to be a celebrity or live on Gulf front property to join in on the trend.

According to realtor Rick Hollis with Alicia Hollis Realty based on Okaloosa Island in Fort Walton Beach since 1976, “Expanding living spaces to the outdoors is a growing trend. Several HGTV programs show people adding outdoor decks for kitchens/cooking areas to their homes.” In addition to outdoor kitchens, Hollis’ clients are adding on sun rooms and decks in front and back yards for relaxing, entertaining and grilling.”

Apparently, everyone is getting decked out.

As with any living space, inside or out, in addition to providing functionality and safety, good lighting is integral to good design. It creates ambience, adds drama and a sense of style. When you take it outside, beyond the backyard to a waterfront deck or dock, not only can designer lighting transform a space into an outdoor aqua park, but it can increase a home’s value as well. 

Though real estate experts disagree on whether lighted decks add anything beyond curb appeal, they all agree it does add to a home’s overall appeal. For those who do say designer decks add value, they say it could be up to thousands of dollars. In fact, Hollis suggests, depending on the construction, owners can expect up to a 50 percent return on their investment. 

As is the mantra in real estate, Hollis reminds that location is the key.

“A lighted deck in a small backyard that looks out onto a backyard fence is not going to add much value,” he reasons. “But a lighted deck for a house with some type of view, especially a beach or water view, will have the biggest bang for your buck.”

And once you’ve made that investment, Hollis suggests you let your light shine.

“From a real estate perspective, owners should take or have nighttime pictures taken to show off those underwater dock and deck lights,” he says. “The vast majority of showings are during the day and not many are done from a boat.”