From a tug on the line to reeling it in, the thrill of fishing happens over and over again aboard Destin fishing charters. What you’ll catch varies by season and how far out into the Gulf you go. But Destin, Florida, fishing is legendary, with roots that run deep like its near-shore waters.

A Lucky Catch

Founded by a fisherman and dubbed “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin is home to the largest commercial fishing fleet in North America. In its 74th year, the longest-running fishing rodeo, the Destin-Fishing Rodeo, holds several species weight records from the International Game Fishing Association. Captains and deckhands who grew up on the water, as did their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

What’s the lure, the siren call? Gulf of Mexico fish live in various water depths. Destin is the closest port to all the depths, meaning you can get to fish you want faster than anywhere else during a 4-hour to overnight boat trip. The Gulf’s “100 Fathom Curve” is the closest to “The Edge” of the continental shelf’s deep waters—and huge fish—is only about 20 miles.

Because Destin is on a peninsula, you also can do bay charter fishing in the Choctawhatchee Bay for species such as flounder and trout.

What you can expect to catch

There are more than 50 sporting varieties. Good eating ranges from tasty tuna, mackerel, and mahi-mahi to sweet snapper, grouper, and triggerfish. Once-in-a-lifetime trophy catches to scratch off the bucket list include shark, sailfish, marlin, and swordfish. Tuna, plus vermilion, white and black snapper are plentiful all year round. Spring, summer, and fall are good times to catch mahi-mahi, marlin, Spanish mackerel, wahoo, and sailfish. Cobia is special for spring. The milder temperatures of spring and fall make amberjack a good bet. Red snapper is a summer catch, and summer through fall means grouper and king mackerel. Winter brings around triggerfish.

What’s the trick to catching the most?

Listen to your captain and deckhand and don’t be afraid to ask questions! It may be a different method than what you’ve learned, but 99.99% of the time they know more than you do.

When you reach shore, your catch can be strung up on the dock for pictures of the ones that didn’t get away, then filleted.

From here, you can take advantage of what’s called catch and cook Many local restaurants will perfectly prepare your Destin-Fort Walton Beach fishing catch. Try healthy and tasty grilled fish. Spice it up Cajun-style by going blackened or bronzed or get it deep-fried. You also can let the chef surprise you with a creative, delicious dish.

If you want to take your catch home to savor later, be sure to store it correctly. Savvy visitors go to businesses such as Destin Ice Seafood Market & Deli to have it vacuum-packed for travel, shipped to your home, or sent as a gift to a fresh fish lover.