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New boat in Destin, Strike Zone Too ready to strike

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log
The Destin Log

There’s a new boat in Destin harbor, with a new captain.

Capt. AJ Niemiec, 30, will be running the Strike Zone Too, a 55-foot ocean yacht docked behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

It’s not his bar, but it is his boat and he’s ready to go fishing.

Growing up in Destin, Niemiec got his first taste of blue-water fishing before he was a teenager. He fished for blue marlin as a young kid aboard a Viking with friends.

“I got hooked,” Niemiec said.

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He did one commercial trip before stepping onto the back deck of the Sunrise with Capt. Kelly Windes, who has since retired.

“I learned a lot for sure. I jumped into it pretty quick,” Niemiec said.

He decked aboard the Sunrise for three years until Windes retired, then went to work the deck for Capt. Gary Jarvis aboard the Backdown 2.

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Niemiec did a two-year stint with Jarvis, until Jarvis retired and sold the boat. Niemiec stayed on and worked the deck for new owner Capt. Phillip Blackburn.

Now after only six years on the back deck, he’s moving upstairs to the captain’s chair and aboard his own boat - Strike Zone Too.

When the option presented itself for him to go in 50-50 on the boat, Niemiec jumped at the chance.

Gary Bannano, who ran the boat tuna fishing out of Louisiana for many years, was looking for someone to run the Strike Zone Too out of Destin and reached out to Jarvis for recommendations.

Jarvis recommended Niemiec.

“I wasn’t sure if I was ready to do it or not, but when Gary (Jarvis) recommended me I figured I better jump on the opportunity,” Niemiec said. "I just knew I didn’t want to deckhand forever. I’m definitely going to miss being down on the deck, but it will be interesting being up stairs this year for sure.“

So Bannano and Niemiec are 50-50 partners on the boat.

“He says it’s my boat, do whatever you want. He doesn’t care what I do,” Niemiec said. “He just wants to see the boat ran and taken care of right. He said if I need anything, just call.”

And it’s worked out “kind of nice, especially right now,” Niemiec said, amidst the coronavirus and all the uncertainty.

But one thing is for certain, Niemiec has hooked himself a nice boat.

The 55-foot ocean yacht is a six-pack vessel and is full of amenities.

“It would be very comfortable for six passengers,” Niemiec said.

The Strike Zone Too has satellite TV, a wine cooler, full-size fridge, microwave, oven, stove, two bathrooms with showers in both, three bedrooms, one with bunk beds and another with two twin beds, the third has a queen size bed and three air conditioners.

When asked he ever thought he’d have such a nice fishing vessel, Niemiec didn’t hesitate, “Yeah... I knew if I was going to get a boat it was going to be a nice one,” he said with a big smile on his face.

As far as the last few months being slow due to the virus, Niemiec said it has given him a chance to go over the boat top to bottom and learn all the ins and outs of the vessel.

“It kind of worked out good, I was able to figure the boat out ... because it’s a new boat to me,” he said.

In recent weeks, he’s done a few fishing trips.

“I’m just ready to be on the water, for sure,” Niemiec said.

His plans are to specialize in overnight trips but he’s up for it all, from offshore bluewater fishing to bottom fishing.

“We’ll do anything, from four hours to 72 hours,” he said. “We’re ready to go for sure ... I’m ready to leave the dock. We’ll do sunset and firework cruises as well. Just anything to get out on the water ... it’s not strictly fishing charters.

“I’m pretty much for anything where we leave the dock,” Niemiec said.

To book a trip aboard the Strike Zone Too, call Niemiec at 850-960-0960.