Dave Gault of Michigan could have been sitting on a bucket in the middle of a lake ice fishing, but instead he was one of 17 fishing in the Gulf of Mexico Thursday aboard the Destin Princess in 40 degree weather.

"It was a little chilly but it wasn't that bad," Gault said as he held on to his stringer filled with mingo, white snapper and triggerfish. "I try to go two or three times while I'm here. I do some fishing back home, but not as much as I'd like."

In Michigan he spends his time ice fishing, but here it's a different story.

"This is relaxing ... you keep meeting people. That's nice," he said.

Capt. Reid Phillips and the crew aboard the Destin Princess fished about 25 miles out on the eight-hour trip Thursday.

"The mingo didn't want to get fired up, but we made up for it in triggers," Phillips said.
And they actually caught more triggerfish than they could keep.

"We caught a ton that were a half-inch short," Phillips said. However they did manage to pull in about 40 keepers.

Triggerfish were put back on the catch list on Jan. 1, after being shut down June 11, 2012.

The size limit for triggerfish is 14 inches fork length. The proposed closed date for triggerfish this year is June 1 to July 31, which is when triggerfish spawn.

In the meantime they are fair game and the anglers aboard the Destin Princess have been reeling them in this week.

On Jan. 2, one of the first fishing trips of the new year, Capt. Phillips took out 19 fishermen and pulled in about 30 triggerfish.

"It's awesome" to have them back on the catch list, Phillips said.

"We didn't catch as many as I thought we would," Phillips said. "We had to fight through the snapper to get to the triggers."

All in all, they pulled in about 300 pounds of fish on Wednesday. In the mix were three red grouper, a couple of amberjack, amberine, mingo, white snapper and the triggers.

"It was a little choppy at first, but then it calmed down," Phillips said. "The dolphin didn't bother us and the sun came out," he said, noting they were fishing about 20 miles out.
And for most of the folks, it wasn't their first trip.

Phil Mosel of Wisconsin says he's here for about three months, and while he's in town, he fishes about three times a week.
And as for Wednesday, "the fishing was wonderful," Mosel said.

It also wasn't the first outing for George Lambrecht of Minnesota and Wayne Laing of Iowa

"We go at least once a week," Laing said.

Lambrecht said he's made more than 150 fishing trips between the Destin Princess and Destiny over the years.

The group fishing Thursday didn't pull in any red grouper or amberjack but they did catch plenty of triggerfish, mingo, white snapper, amberine and lane snapper.

"It wasn't that bad today, it was a little bit cold, a little drizzly with 2 to 3 footers," said deckhand Wyatt Ferreria.

And the trick to snagging the triggerfish is "a little smaller hook," Ferreria said. Plus, he said, they like to use Boston mackerel and squid for bait.

A group of anglers from Minnesota did quite well.

"The fishing was great," said Joe Leoni of Minnesota. "All we had to do is bring enough back to feed the wives ... and I think we did that.

Doug Haskell of Michigan, who's been coming to the Emerald Coast for the past 10 years, says he goes fishing every other day while he's here and loves it.

"I have enough to eat fish one or two times a week for 9 1/2 months when I get home," Haskell said. Plus he donates some of his fish to the Catholic church back home.

Although the temperatures are still a bit cold, the fishing is starting to heat up.

See you at the docks.