The beloved city of Destin along Florida’s Emerald Coast isn’t called the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” for nothing! Explore five awesome ways to enjoy the local catch.
The signature fish of Destin, red snapper, is an especially prized catch since the season is short with a bag limit. Often mislabeled in the marketplace, authentic American red snapper have trademark red skin and red eyes. On the plate, red snapper has a fine-textured white meat with a mild flavor, and lends itself to simple grilling and a variety of recipes. Try the spicy blackened version, or for a lighter taste, sauté in lemon juice and herb butter. Sommeliers often recommend pairing red snapper with a medium-bodied white like a chardonnay or riesling.
Get ready for a fight if grouper is on the dinner menu! It’s one of the most sought-after fish in the Gulf of Mexico, but a tough one to land. Catch one of the Destin charter boats catering to families (including children) and spend a day deep-sea fishing for the bottom-dwelling grouper, a member of the sea bass family. Once back on land, try grilling or frying the fish, or adding it to a soup or chowder. With a taste described as a cross between bass and halibut, grouper pairs well with a lightly oaked chardonnay.
The silvery gray pompano commonly inhabits the coastal waters of Destin. Catch the small but feisty fish in the surf or off the jetties, but beware! Once hooked, pompanos may make a run toward the beach—practiced fisherman suggest using the waves to help reel them in. Unique to Florida, pompano is a firm fish with a clean taste. Local chefs often bake the fish either whole or filleted. Because of the high fat content, it also works with a variety of spices and sauces. Serve with a fruity viognier or chenin blanc.
A Florida native, the clearnosed skate is similar to stingray—minus the stinger. Chefs liken the taste and texture to scallops, often cutting the raw fillets into disc shapes. To prepare, pan sear with bacon, or dredge the discs in spices and sauté in oil or butter. Try pairing with a dry rosé or full-bodied pinot gris.
Fishing the Choctawhatchee Bay may net a variety of fish, but the prize here is the speckled trout—some of the best in the country. Although trout thrive in the bay, they spook easily, so visitors to the area are encouraged to seek out an experienced charter captain. Available year round, the dotted silver-green fish is often fried whole, but for a more sophisticated presentation, bake with fresh vegetables and pair with an elegant sauvignon blanc.