The great thing about Florida is that fishing season is practically year round. Whether it’s black sea bass, cobia, tuna, tarpon, grouper or red drum (easy pickings in the summer), you can expect an abundance of bites all along the Emerald Coast. However, there is one species the Gulf is known for. Ask any beachside kitchen or Florida local, and they’ll swear on the prized red snapper. If it’s pink, it’s gotta be good. After all, pink and green go oh so well together.
A 15 minute drive through Okaloosa Island down Miracle Strip Parkway lies “the world’s luckiest fishing village.” The unique town of Destin makes its claims of superior fishing to the mere 10 mile trip it takes to get to 100 ft deep waters coupled with having the largest fishing vessel fleet in the entire state. That’s great and all, but what about the fish – the meat of the matter? Well, how about holding the world record for the largest Warsaw Grouper ever angled? It weighed a brag-worthy 485 pounds and measured 6 feet long and 4 feet wide. What a fight that must have been!
So we know where the fish are, but how do we get them? If you’re anything like me, you probably don’t have a massive boat to haul around 300-pound fish on. Not to fret! Remember that fleet I mentioned? Finding a fishing charter for offshore, inshore or deep sea fishing has never been easier. Private or group? Luxurious or sporty? Big-game or small time? Half-day or multiple-day? Charter options are near-endless! Since the biggest fish I’ve ever caught is a 6-inch crevalle jack, I was pleased to discover that the Fort Walton area even offers lessons and equipment. No matter what kind of fishing adventure you’re looking for, there will be an Emerald Coast charter guaranteed to meet your needs.
There’s nothing more satisfying that being able to cook up a fresh catch for dinner. However, it’s good to take into account some consumption advisories before you gorge yourself on that all-you-can-eat seafood buffet or coconut shrimp platter. Florida Fish and Wildlife reminds everyone to be aware of mercury levels when consuming fish both raw and cooked. Fortunately, most Florida fish pose little threat of mercury content. If you’re more of the catch-and-release kind of fisher, the restaurants in the area are up to date on the the advisories as well and post warnings accordingly. The Black Pearl is a Fort Walton local favorite and carries a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor!
You may not need a license to have a good time, but you do need one to fish. Luckily, they’re affordable and can be purchased online, or are provided by most charters. A regular nonresident saltwater fishing license ranges at $17 for three days, $30 for seven days or $47 for one year, regardless of whether you fish from shore or a vessel. If you’re a Florida resident over 65, you can fish to your heart’s content without a license!