Boats fill up for snapper

Tina Harbuck

There are a few open spots left, but charter boats in Destin are filling up for red snapper season.

Red snapper season opened June 1 for federally permitted boats, which are the majority of Destin’s charter fleet, and will go through Aug. 1. The season for recreational boats, which do not hold a federal permit, opens June 11 and runs through July 12.

“The phone has been ringing,” said Capt. Bernie LeFebvre of the Windwalker II. “The next couple of months are busy and we are definitely doubled up the whole first week.”

During the next couple of months, Destin charter boats will run one, two even three trips a day in order to get the customers on the water.

Capt. Eddie Dykes of the Shamrock II, who’s chartered out of Destin for more than four decades, says his bookings for June are the best they have ever been.

But that’s the way it looks for most of the Destin charter boat captains.

“I don’t know if we have many days left open in June,” said Capt. Bud Miller of the Mighty Fine. “We’re filling up our afternoons right now. July still has some open days, but I’m sure they’ll fill in as soon as the snapper starts hitting the docks. Snapper fills the boards up and it fills the boats up.”

And that was not an issue over the weekend or on Monday, as boat after boat hauled in their limit. Anglers can keep two red snapper each and must measure 16 inches to keep.

“We’re super excited about being able to keep them,” said Capt. Matt Pearson of the Vengeance. “Snapper season is a must … we make most of our money in June and July. We run one, two or three times a day. We’ll even run at night.”

The party boats are looking full for the next couple of months as well.

Capt. Jim Westbrook of the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit said June and July are his two busiest months of the year.

“They have been for 30 consecutive years and I don’t anticipate any change … snapper or no snappers," Westbrook said. "It doesn’t matter.”

Westbrook said the people are here in the summer months and his boat always fills up.

“The years they closed snapper in the middle of June, July was still my busiest month of the year,” he said.

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