Not only will it be a first for Destin when the long-awaited Destin High School opens its doors on Aug. 10, but it will be the first school in Florida to have a fishing class.
About 60 people showed up Tuesday night at Destin High to hear about the fishing class to be taught by Capt. Mike Parker, who recently sold his charter boat Silver King after 20 years in the business.
During the meeting, Parker went over a list of course goals and objectives they hope to accomplish in the class.
On the list were such things as learning and developing fishing skills, how to use fishing equipment, rigging and techniques as well as to learn and develop boating knowledge and boat care and boating safety.
Part of rigging will include learning how to tie knots and how to cast.
As for boat care, the students will learn the proper way to clean a boat.
“You’ll get a good boating education,” Parker said.
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Also, on the list was learning about the fishing history of Destin, which has been tagged for years as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”
The students also will learn about the local fishing and boating industry and what part it plays in the local economy.
Parker told those gathered that the Destin fishing fleet has had a great year of fishing, and that also brings people into town who spend money in restaurants and for housing.
In the class the students will learn about the eco system, conserving and protecting the Gulf, bays and freshwater sources.
“We will learn about taking care of our waterways,” Parker said, noting even small things matter.
One of the small things that helps, he said, is putting used fishing line in the bins located along the docks.
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The conserving and protecting part will deal with fishing regulations as well as size limits and such.
Last on his list was learning and understanding the many fishing and boating jobs involved in our area and the opportunities to participate in field trips, fishing trips and possible apprenticeships.
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Parker said the Destin Charter Boat Association is behind the fishing class and will help get students on boats if they want during the summer.
Bass Pro Shops and Legendary Marine have offered to help with summer jobs for those students in the class.
“We’re trying to provide opportunities for the students to develop their career,” Parker said.
Capt. Brant and Laurie Kelly have stepped up to provide scholarship money for students who want to become a boat captain. The scholarship will pay for expenses for sea school and everything that goes with it.
“If you want to become a captain, we’ll make sure you’re taken care of,” Parker said.
And Destin is in need of captains.
“I think it’s vital to our community,” said Capt. Brandy Miles of the fishing class. Miles is captain of the charter boat Discipleship at HarborWalk. “If we don’t have young captains coming up … this is a dying industry. And it’s what our community was built on.”
Parker has several labs and field trips planned for the class. Some of the labs will revolve around casting, fishing knots, rigging, gaffing, lures and fish cleaning.
As for field trips, first stop on the list will be the Destin History and Fishing Museum. They also plan to go on saltwater and freshwater fishing trips. There are visits to the Destin Coast Guard Station, the Freeport Boat Yard and Destin Fishing Rodeo in October to name a few.
“This is going to be a very participatory course,” Parker said.
Others in the community will be helping out with classes and labs.
Pete Wright Jr. of the Ships Chandler will be helping with trout and redfish fishing trips and Tim Broom of Half Hitch Tackle will be talking about pier fishing and pompano fishing off the beach.
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The Okaloosa Island Pier will offer free passes to students in the class.
Although it will be a very hands-on class, there will be a few written tests on Destin history, fishing laws and regulations.
“But I think everybody will do good in this course,” Parker said.
Wright said the idea of the class is great.
“I look at it like a life skills class … kind of like a home-ec class,” Wright said. “It’ll be something you can take with you, other than an elective you forget.”
There are 35 students, boys and girls, signed up for the class.
“I’m looking forward to teaching you,” Parker said.
“It makes me wish I was 16 again,” a man in the crowd said.
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