Destin youth unplug for Tackle Boxes Not Xboxes fishing event

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Nearly 50 youth stepped away from their electronics for at least six hours on Monday for a day of fishing aboard the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit as part of the third annual Boathouse Oyster Bar's Tackle Boxes Not Xboxes fishing event. 

Capt. Jim Green of the NFG American Spirit took 48 youth, ranging in ages from 8 to 14, out for a six-hour trip of fishing Monday morning. 

“This is by far my happiest day,” said Amber Helton, event coordinator and weighmaster at the Boathouse. 

About 50 youth participated in the third annual Tackle Boxes Not Xboxes fishing event.

Helton said they trolled as well as bottom fished. The youth caught mingo, mahi mahi, black snapper, scamp, puffer fish and triggerfish.  

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The triggerfish had to be thrown back because they are not in season, but before they tossed them back, the deckhands aboard the Spirit explained to the young anglers about the fish and why it’s called a trigger. When the top fin on the trigger is pulled back like a trigger, it opens the mouth of the fish.

“They gave like a little fish biology lesson to the kids … and the kids were great,” Helton said. 

The New Florida Girl's American Spirit came in about 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon with about 50 youth that participated in the third annual Boathouse Oyster Bar Tackle Boxes Not Xboxes fishing event.

In addition to the many youngsters, there were adults that went along to help and serve as chaperones. 

For Capt. Kendra Estes, owner of Bliss Charters, it was her second year to go along with the youth. 

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“Having the opportunity to work with the youth of our community two years in a row has been extremely rewarding,” Estes said. “Watching the new kids learn how to fish, seeing the experienced kids step up their skills, and watching the looks on their faces every time they catch a fish is priceless.”

Shannon Vogt, manager of the Boathouse Marina, went along as well. 

Young Isaiah Paulino and deckhand Vick Costellos show off a mahi mahi they reeled in on the fishing trip.

“I had as much fun as the kids, if not more, teaching them how to bait their own hooks and seeing their excitement on their faces when they reeled in a fish all on their own," Vogt said. “It was so special getting to tag along and seeing timid kids act like professionals by the end of the trip.”

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When the youth arrived back at the docks, parents were waiting with smartphones in hand to video and take photos of the kids as they got off the boat. 

Rachael Green of AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar handed out a free rod and reel combo to each child that was part of the Tackle Boxes Not Xboxes event on Monday.

Rachael Green of AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar was there to hand each youth a free rod and reel combo as well as an AJ’s cotton candy-flavored gelato, guaranteed to turn the tongue blue. 

While some of the children scurried away after getting off the boat, some stuck around and unpacked their rods and started catching catfish off the docks. 

“They just couldn’t get enough of fishing,” Helton said. 

This is the third year for the event. For $60 each child received a T-shirt, lunch and tackle box, plus all the fun of fishing. 

“We had a waiting list of kids,” Helton said.

She also said businesses and people in the community reached out wanting to help with the event. 

Nearly 50 youth, ages 8 to 14, participated in the third annual Boathouse Oyster Bar Tackle Boxes Not Xboxes fishing event this week aboard the New Florida Girl's American Spirit.

“We partner with the Boathouse for this event to provide an opportunity for children to experience the fun of fishing on the Gulf,” said Capt. Green of the Spirit. “For myself and crew it is a pleasure to get to teach the kids how to use tackle, catch fish, and enjoy the natural resources in our community.”