Destin is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” because of its abundant sea life and easy access to many of the Gulf’s deep-sea fish thanks to the drop-off at the Destin Harbor.
Grouper, a popular menu item around the world, is found over three varieties including: gray, red, and black. The black grouper is the largest of the three and can weigh up to 124 pounds. Gray groupers typically top out at 50 pounds, but a world-record-setting 80-pound gray grouper was once caught in Destin. Finally, red groupers are a very popular catch and a delicious meal to enjoy while you’re visiting.
Florida’s red snapper season is a huge draw for anglers. These bright red fish are prized for their flavor and fetch some of the highest prices for commercial anglers. Large snappers can weigh as much as 50 pounds. They travel in large schools and are aggressive if the right bait is on the line, making them a quick and easy catch.
The greater amberjack is popular with spearfishing charters because these large fish love to stay close to the sunken wrecks and artificial reefs in Destin, making them easy to find. The dark stripe down the side of the fish changes color, from dark amber to a brighter yellow when it is feeding or feels threatened.
The annual Destin Cobia Fishing Competition brings anglers from around the world each spring as cobia fish migrate through Gulf waters. These fish can weigh up to 170 pounds and are strong fighters, making them a fun challenge for recreational anglers. The meat is delicious and cobia is a premium sashimi-grade fish.
You can find large bluefin tunas swimming near the Destin Harbor. In fact, in 2017 an 826-pound bluefin tuna was caught in Destin, setting a state record. While a recently caught 642-pound bluefin tuna didn’t beat that record, it was cause for celebration on the dock. Bluefin tuna is prized for its rich flavor and has been known to sell for as much as $200 per pound.
Is there anything more breathtaking than a sailfish? Varying from blue to gray in color, sailfish have a dorsal fin (the sail) that stretches the entire length of their back. Fun fact: when swimming the sail is folded down but raised when the sailfish is chasing prey. These are the fastest fish in the Gulf and can swim up to 68 mph.
Wahoo is a popular fish with both recreational and game anglers. These shimmering striped fish are fast and difficult to catch, but well worth the effort. Wahoo meat is praised by chefs for its versatility.
The tarpon is considered a game fish by anglers. These bright, silver fish put up a fight when caught. They are massive too! Tarpon can grow up to 8 feet long and weigh up to 300 pounds. It takes a patient and strong angler to reel in one of these fish. Unfortunately, tarpon aren’t valued for their taste. The fish are boney, difficult to clean, and the meat has a taste most find unpleasant.
The gray triggerfish is a great fish to catch. It has a large, rounded body that is simple to filet and the meat has a mild, sweet taste that’s comparable to crab. The fish have small mouths, which can make them harder to bait and sharp teeth that they use to crush small mussels and sea urchins. Use caution when removing the hook.
Fishing limits and designated fishing seasons are in place to protect different species and the fishing industry in Destin. Florida fishing licenses are required for all residents between 16 and 64 years of age. If a fishing license is of no interest for you, but fishing the depths of the Gulf of Mexico is a must during your getaway, consider one of Destin’s many charter boats.