Emerald Coast Big Game Fishing Club is up and reeling in members

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Destin harbor, which houses one of the largest fishing fleets in the United States, is now home to the Emerald Coast Big Game Fishing Club. 

The club had its first meeting Thursday night at Harbor Docks Restaurant to give people the opportunity to become members and learn more about the club. 

“The meeting was awesome. ... We packed the room,” said Crystal LaFosse, founder of the club. 

The Emerald Coast Big Game Fishing Club held its first meeting at Harbor Docks on Thursday. Pictured are Crystal LaFosse, club founder, and Eddie Morgan of Harbor Docks.

By the end of the evening the club had 72 members on the books. 

“It’s just unbelievable. Everybody loved it and the decorations were over the top. We talked about all our tournaments for the year. It was the wow factor for sure,” she said. 

Originally from Louisiana, LaFosse moved to the area about seven months ago. 

She said her background was running marinas. 

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“So, anything fishing is right up my alley,” she said. 

Years ago, she had the idea of starting a fishing club. She didn’t know where, but knew when the timing was right it would happen. After moving to Destin she reached out to her friend Nick Hunter, captain of the Briar Patch. 

“He started talking about how Destin needed a fishing club … not knowing that I had all these ideas going on already,” she said. 

The club was launched Jan. 1. 

“We just have an incredible list of sponsors on board ... and word is spreading like wildfire,” she said. 

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The club is for everybody, LaFosse said. 

"Anybody is welcome. Already we have a lot of big game fishermen, but we also have inshore guys and we even have some that don’t even have a boat. They just want to be part of all the events,” she said. 

Membership covers bi-monthly club meetings, lower-priced entries to the tournaments and tickets to the sportsman ball. 

The first meeting of the Emerald Coast Big Game Fishing Club was well attended at Harbor Docks.

The club has scheduled three tournaments this year, starting with the Billfish Extravaganza on May 12-15. 

The second tournament with be all about the youth set for July 30-31. 

And the third will be a Ladies Tournament on Sept. 16-18. 

The year will wrap up with a black-tie Sportsman Ball, which LaFosse called “the Mardi Gras Ball of Sportfishing,” at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center on Nov. 5. 

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The Billfish Extravaganza will not be part of the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championships, which includes billfish tournaments from Destin to Louisiana. 

“We are going to be different than every billfish tournament in the Gulf,” she said. 

Over the years, LaFosse who has been to a lot of billfish tournaments and has seen fewer and fewer blue marlin come to the scales because “they have been overfished,” she said. 

So, in order to help with billfish conservation, the billfish division for the ECBGFC tournaments will be catch and release only. All billfish points will be the same: 200 points for blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish releases. 

The fish brought to the scales will be tuna, dolphin, wahoo and swordfish for bigger tournaments. 

Captains and fishermen sign up to join the Emerald Coast Big Game Fishing Club at the recent gathering at Harbor Docks in Destin.

Next on the calendar for the ECBGFC is another club meeting April 28 at Harbor Docks. All club meetings and tournaments will be held there. 

For more information about becoming a member of the club visit its website at ecbgfc.com or call 337-802-5525.