For the majority of the Destin fishing fleet, which is the largest in Florida, March and April is the beginning of their fishing season after being off for at least three months.

With so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, bars being closed and restaurants offering only take-out, one thing is for certain: the Destin charter boat fleet is ready to go fishing.


“We’ve had a few cancel,” said Capt. Robert Hill of the Twilight, who had just stepped off his boat Wednesday afternoon as his deckhand Jordan Colson cleaned up the rack of triggerfish and mingo.


“We’ll do what ever they tell us to do ... but for now we’re fishing,” Hill said.


Hill’s boat, which can take up to 17 passengers, said he practicing the guidelines of no more than 10 in a group and is not booking anything over 10 passengers on his boat at a time.


“And we have lots of Clorox wipes,” he said.


His customers Wednesday were not concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus.


“It’s better here than at home,” said April Nalley of Louisville, Kentucky.


“I’d be more concerned if I was home than here,” added her husband Chris.


The Kentucky couple is staying in Santa Rosa Beach and had plans to stay only a week, however, they have had a change of plans are going to stay two.


“We brought plenty of dry food and what the kids like to snack on,” said April, noting they have enjoyed their stay.


For the majority of the Destin fishing fleet, which is the largest in Florida, March and April is the beginning of their fishing season after being off for at least three months.


On Wednesday, more than two dozen of the boats had fishing trips, while others sat at the docks due to having nothing scheduled or even a cancellation.


“It could be better ... we’re losing some trips,” said Capt. Steve Haeusler of the First Light, who had just come in from a four-hour fishing trip. “Everybody is just trying to stay safe.”


Haeusler and his deckhand Wyatt are doing what they can to keep the boat clean.


He also said they ask passengers before boarding if they’ve been sick or coughing. If so, they nicely ask them not to board the boat.


“Be nice ... but I can’t afford to be sick. But God has a plan,” Haeusler said.


Nevertheless, Haeusler said, “We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do ... we’ll get through it. It’s not a good time, but it could be June.”


June 1 marks the opening of red snapper season for the for-hire fishing industry. This year the charter boats get 62 days to haul in the red snapper. During that time, many of the charter boats run two and sometimes three trips a day.


For now, Haeusler said, “the phone is not ringing that much ... most want to cancel.”


Capt. Mike Parker and Capt. Alex Hare on the Silver King are starting to get a few of those phone calls as well.


“We’ve had a lot of trips cancel in April because of the coronavirus,” Parker said.


“I’ve had up to six cancellations ... had one just last night,” he said as they waited at the docks Wednesday afternoon for their next group of anglers.


He made mention of one family from Minnesota canceling their whole vacation to the Emerald Coast, condo, fishing trip and all.


The Silver King is a six-passenger vessel, although Parker said they usually just take three or four and that the boat is clean.


“I haven’t touched anyone,” Hare said, noting that most folks just want to maybe extend an elbow as a greeting.


“They don’t want to shake ... which I get,” Hare said.


Capt. Tony Davis of the Anastasia said he’s lost four trips this month and seven or eight in April.


“People are limited as to what they can do when they come here,” Davis said. “They want to go out and experience the whole thing.


“But I think the people that are here are going fishing and enjoying themselves,” he added.