Ice fishing? No problem for snowbirds

Harvey Kraabel of Minnesota shows off a huge triggerfish he caught Wednesday aboard the party boat Destiny.

Even the cold temps this week didn't stop our Northern visitors from hitting the water for a bit of fishing.

On Wednesday with the temperature at 28 degrees at the time of departure from the docks in Destin and maybe 50 when they arrived back — the 26 fishermen aboard the party boat Destiny seemed to all have a great time. Plus they managed to pull in a few fish to boot.

However it was a bit of a challenge before setting out for the day. The deckhands said the deck of the boat was covered in ice when they got to the docks to get it ready for the day. Needless to say, the back deck was a bit slippery, but they managed to keep their footing for a good catch.

Capt. Chris McConnell of the Destiny said they went out about 16 miles from Destin.

"The conditions weren't ideal," McConnell said. "It was a little choppy and the current was really bad on the back side of the "arctic" front we had."

Nevertheless, the anglers stood their ground and reeled in triggerfish, mingo, white snapper, red snapper and a filefish.

Harvey Kraabel of Minnesota hauled in one of the largest triggerfish on board.

"This is the biggest and only triggerfish I've ever caught," Kraabel said as he held up the massive fish for some photo opportunities. Kraabel said he goes fishing at least a couple of times while he winters in Destin.

Triggerfish went back on the catch list Jan. 1. They must be at least 14 inches to keep with a bag limit of two per person.

Capt. McConnell said squid and Boston mackerel work well for bait. However, he admitted he was a fan of squid.

Ron Linker of Strathroy, Canada, pulled in a pair of red snapper.

"This is the first ever I am able to keep legally … it was so much fun," Linker said.

The Destiny is one of three party boats in Destin that are part of a headboat pilot program, which allows such vessels to land red snapper. The other two participating boats are the Sweet Jody and Destin Princess.

Each boat is allotted a certain number of red snapper (at least 15 inches and two per person) they can keep for the year. The number was reached based on their catch history from 2011. Once the boats have reached their allotted number, they are done on red snapper. The captains are hoping that their allotments will carry them through the end of July.

Anyhow, Linker, like others was excited to be able to finally keep one.

"This was my first time to go this year," Linker said, noting he usually goes two or three times a week while he is in Destin. "I've been waiting 10 months to go."

Kalman Lasllo Jr. and Sr. came in with a nice stringer of mingo, red snapper and a filefish. This was the first time for the father and son duo from Transylvania to go fishing on the Gulf of Mexico. They didn’t speak much English but seemed plenty pleased with their catch.

Whether it’s the first or first in a long time, there's no better time to go fishing than when you can.

See you at the docks.