Savor red snapper in Destiny-by-the-Sea

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.

Blackened spicy snapper fillets
Fishing vacation in Destin — Red Snapper
Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO
Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO

Gather around a plate of grouper on the Gulf front

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.

Grilled grouper fillets
Fishing vacation in Destin — Grouper
vrbo-p285923-view.jpg (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)
vrbo-p285923-kitchen.jpg (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)

Enjoy Pompano poolside in Delos

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.

Wine-baked pompano in sauce
Fishing vacation in Destin — Pompano
vrbo-330263-kitchen.jpg (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)
vrbo-330263.jpg (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)

Create a culinary masterpiece in Crystal Beach

Although frequently an accidental catch (or a nasty surprise in the surf!), stingrays are edible. The preparation takes some practice, including removal of the stinger and fillet of the wings. 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.

Sautéed skate with summer tomatoes
Fishing vacation in Destin — Stingray
vrbo 476569 kitchen (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)
vrbo 476569 (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)

Prepare your bay prize in your own Destin beach house

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 seasonal vegetables and rice and pair with an elegant sauvignon blanc.

Baked speckled trout
Fishing vacation in Destin — Speckled Trout
vrbo 385129 kitchen (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)
vrbo 385129 (Fishing vacation in Destin — VRBO)