Destin Boasts p. 2 Sept.27, 1968
DESTIN BOASTS (cont'd) yellow fin tuna. As the records will show, Destin has now adopted the title of the billfishing c a p i t o 1 of Northwest Florida,- and a well- earned title it is. The snapper banks arid the annual run of cobia and king mackerel have already done their part to establish the tourist fishing trade. With the addition of big game fishing for blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish, we have a d d e d a new challenge for sports fishermen. In 1957 the U-S-Fish and Wildlife Service published a report on the findings ot the survey vessel, "Oregon". The seven- year study of the off-shore waters revealed the presence of a host of the kind of big game fish that entice big game fishermen to the area, particularly at Destin which is the closest point to the fifty fathom curve on the entire one hundred and five mile long Miracle Strip coastline, which stretches from Panama City on the east to Pensacola on the west. From Destin it is only a matter of roughly thirty-five nautical miles to this game-fish haven. At first there was no great rush to these newly discovered fishing grounds since most of the boats were not equipped for this type of fishing and many skippers w e r e outspoken in their opinions. "Why travel this far on the chance that you might get a big one when you could make a good living fishing for me oid standby^, mackerel and snapper, closer to home?" However, a few of the captains had the fortitude and faith to give it a try. One man set himself the task of compiling records of their catches. This man was the late Leonard Hutchinson, former fishing editor of the Playground Daily News. In 1955 "Hutch" started keeping count of every billfish caught out of the port of Destin. That year he noted that three sailfish were taken, one each in July, August and October. Year by year the catches mounted up from the original three to a then whopping total of 286 including the 61 caught in 1964. The first recorded catch of a blue marlin was made at Destin on Aug. 18, 1962. It was a twelve foot, 390 pounder. By Aug. 22, 1964 Hutchinson's nine year record showed that Destin anglers had also taken 25 white marlin and six blue marlin. In 1965 the record book totaled 138 billfish for the year. In May of 1966, after "Hutch's" untimely death, your reporter took up the recording task. The total for 1966 swelled to 240 bill fish, 29 blue marlin 69 white marlin and 142 sail fish. In 1967 the count was 32 blue marlin, 170 white marlin and 411 sailfish for a grand total of 613 bullfish. As of this writing, with nearly a month and a half of productive off shore fishing yet to go, it is reasonably estimated that this year's catch will surpass all previous records. Thus the record book shows that since that first entry in 1955 through Friday Sept. 20, 1968 there have been 1, 6 8 8 billfish recorded here. This includes 287 sailfish, 101 white marlin and 23 blue marlin caught this year up to the date noted. It is a far cry from the sail- powered fishing smacks of the old timers to the sleek modern trollers of today. Every day they prowl "billfish gully" looking for the tail walking, ballet dancing blue or white marlin, the sporty sailfish, the speedy wahoo that runs like an express train, or the magnificent dolphin with colors to rival a sunset. It's a far c-r y from the smacks to the modern party boats that daily put to sea heading for the snapper banks to load up on red snapper, grouper, warsaw and the other fine fish that abound in these waters. For those who prefer smaller sport fish, the inshore trollers offer the thrill of hooking a wily king mackerel or small tuna. And, it's not too unusual to hook a sailfish in inshore waters. If you are the stay-ashore type, there's always the pier or bridge, and the surf also produces its share of fishing thrills. If you prefer fresh water angling, the adjacent rivers, lakes and ponds abound with a plentiful supply of bluegills, shellcrackers, c r a p p i e bass. The harbor and coves offer flounder, trout, redfish, catfish and even tasty crabs for those with the patience to stalk them with a net or trap. Destin's waters invite the fisherman of every type and style and even the children have their day, whether catching pin fish, gaffing top cats out of a boat or off a pier, or going along with the folks on a trip to sea. Fishing fever is of a contagious nature and all who come to this picturesque place called Destin will sooner or later fall victim ot its call and answer the urge to put to sea and wet a line . . .here, hwere fishing fever and the miracle of the sea has been a way of life for so many, for so long. To live here permanently is to become a part of it and and believe that this is indeed the "Luckiest Fishing Village in the World"...Destin, Florida, in the heart of the famed Miracle Strip.