What kids lack in height, they can make up for by telling tall fish tales from their trip to Destin-Fort Walton Beach.
Being the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” with the nation’s largest charter fishing fleet, Destin is the perfect place for children to get their first “bite” of fishing or hone their skills with expert captains and crews.
Hop on a Boat
Families can rent private charters that cater to kids, teaching them about the types of fish in the area, and providing the right gear used to catch them. Trips are typically shorter (perfect for shorter attention spans), cruise on calmer waters, and focus on the easiest, in-season fish to catch so kids don’t have to be TOO patient.
If you’d like to venture on a breathtaking excursion into the Gulf of Mexico, “party boats” are another option, offering reduced rates or even free admission for little ones, depending on age. These larger vessels have more room for kids if they get bored on the hours-long adventure, plus some, like American Spirit, have galleys that offer sandwiches, snacks, and drinks, plus spaces to play games (perhaps “Go Fish?) or nap.
Poles and bait are supplied, and deckhands make it easy, whether it be putting on bait, taking off fish, or taking pictures to show off at home.
Stay Near the Shore
If you’re more of a landlubbing family, cast a line at Joe’s Bayou Boat Launch, or stay near the area’s beautiful beaches and try your hand at kayak or paddleboard fishing. Paddleboard, kayak and even surf fishing is a normal sight for locals and they’ll know how to maneuver around your lines. To give yourself lots of room, though, top spots are the edges of Henderson Beach State Park, or on the Gulf or Bayside of Okaloosa Island.
While you’re on the island, the Okaloosa Island Fishing Pier is a favorite where you can rent poles and buy bait. Kids can explore up and down the pier, plus there’s always something in the water to watch, from sea turtles to dolphins.
To prep for their fishing adventure, they can start by catching bait. “Sand fleas,” also known as mole crabs, live in the surf and are perfect for Pompano fishing. Using a sand flea rake, which is a backward dustpan on a stick, they can collect them in a bucket of water, squealing in delight as they do.
If your kid is all about learning before doing, The Destin History & Fishing Museum is the place to start. Not only are there scavenger hunts and over 75 mounted species of fish – including sharks and swordfish – they'll learn why the area’s sand is so white and get to pose as the “captain” of a fishing boat.
You really can’t go wrong with Destin, FL fishing. Year-round, something is always in season, and it’s easy to get a fishing license. On charter and party boats, you won’t need one. For other fishing, kids under age 16 aren’t required to have one. Adults can get instant licenses at myfwc.com/license.