Empty boat slips are a good sign that the fishing business is good.
And from June 1 through July 19, the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village experienced good business with the slips empty and the majority of the fleet chasing red snapper for 49 days.
“It’s been an awesome season and business was great,” said Capt. Casey Weldon of the Fish N Fool.
“We had a little hiccup with Tropical Storm Cindy,” he said, noting they missed about three days during the middle of June.
But other than that, Weldon said he mostly fished two trips a day with a handful of long trips.
As for after the close of red snapper, Weldon said his business is still looking good.
“We’ll be trolling for kings and catching mingo … we’ll make it work. There is always something going on,” he said.
However, Capt. Bill Watson of Sweet William III said his snapper season was a bit different.
“It was average … it wasn’t great. It’s been better,” Watson said.
Watson said two years ago, he was booking two trips a day for snapper. But this year, he had mostly just one trip per day.
“The fish were there, maybe not as big, but we did have a hard time getting to them because of the triggerfish,” he said.
Now that snapper season has come to a close, “It looks bleak at the moment,” Watson said, noting he only had two trips on the books after the close.
Nevertheless, he did say that most of his trips this season were same day bookings.
Capt. Reid Phillips, who’s definitely not new to the Destin fishing scene, had a good first red snapper season aboard his new 46-foot charter boat, Rewind.
“It was awesome,” Phillips said. “We had a hard time getting through the triggerfish, but it’s been great.
“(The season) exceeded my hopes and expectations,” he added.
Phillips had mostly two trips a day and sometimes three.
“Bless Isabel Graef,” he said, noting that Graef, the wife of Capt. Mike Graef, pushed some trips his way.
Not only did they stay busy, but his anglers pulled in some whoppers, one of those red snapper being a 25 pounder on the last day of the season.
But looking past July 19, captain said he still has a couple of trips to finish out the week.
“I’m kind of praying that it doesn’t go off the deep end after that. Could slide down the hill with school starting back,” Phillips said.
Capt. B.J. Teems of the Makaira said he had a good snapper season.
“It started slow, but I can’t complain,” Teems said.
“We did more long trips than double trips,” he said, noting he did a lot of 10- to 12-hours trips and even some overnight trips. “And I’m still pretty busy (after the close of snapper)."
Teems has an 18 hour, 48 hour and a three-day trip back to back in the next few weeks.
The 18-hour trip will be a bottom fishing trip, while the 48-hour venture will be for tuna and marlin. As for what to expect on the three-day trip, he said they will be doing a deep drop for snowy grouper and tile fish, along with some tuna and marlin fishing.
“I’m lucky to have the clientele likes to do those long trips,” Teems said.
For Capt. Bill Williams snapper fishing was very good aboard the Striker.
“It was good, but not as good as I’ve seen it in the past,” Williams said.
Although Williams has been fishing out of Destin for more than 25 years, this is the Strikers second year on the water.
“We ran a few doubles, but not as many as others,” he said.
As for what he expects in the days to come, “Pretty slow, especially after school starts … it’ll be all down hill.”
The party boats, which carry 30 to 65 people each, also did well in the 49-day snapper season.
“We had a lot of trips,” said Capt. Cliff Cox of the Sweet Jody. “I’ve seen more fish this year … maybe smaller overall than I saw last year.”
Cox said they mixed it up with two trips a day and longer trips.
“But we probably ran more longer trips,” he said.
Does the close of snapper change his business?
“It doesn’t make much difference,” Cox said, noting they will continue to run two trips a day. “But we will see a drop off in the next couple of weeks (once school starts back).
“Then it will be cricket, cricket …” he said.