By Kenneth Books
Destin isn’t known as the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village for nothing, and more than 50 students at Destin High School have taken that nickname to heart.
The Destin High Fishing Class not only is teaching teens the ins and outs of being a successful – and often professional – angler, it’s a showcase class that has drawn interest from other areas in Florida.
“We’ve had real success,” said class instructor Capt. Mike Parker, who has run charter boats for three decades. “I followed the construction of the high school. Then I went to the school board and asked if such a class was possible.”
From there, Parker had to contact the state for permission. It was granted and the class was off and sailing.
The students’ reasons for taking the career elective course vary.
“I like to fish,” said sophomore Ana Vizcarrondo, who Parker said ties some of the best knots in the class. “I use it when I go fishing with my dad. The class definitely opened up a lot of opportunities.”
Those opportunities may extend much farther than Destin, Parker said. The state director of curriculum has asked him to write a proposal to get the fishing class into more Florida schools.
For Ana, the goal is to fish for fun with her father. Her crowning achievement was that of landing a 35-pound snapper. “It made good tacos,” she said.
But for junior Benjamin Otto, the class is a pathway to a career.
“It teaches you to get out of class and go to work,” Otto said. “It’s our version of an ag elective.”
Otto said he hopes to make a living on the water and, in fact, may have a job lined up already. But it’s not all fun and games.
The toughest part of the fishing class, Otto said, is “tests. Flags and what they mean. CPR. Also, weather and knots.”
Selflessness is part of the deal with the class as well. It set up a sea school scholarship fund and recently raised $10,000 to construct 10 reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, selling nautical items, including a vacation stay donated by Ocean Reef.
The reef project was a response to a challenge issued by Okaloosa County Coastal Resource Manager Alex Fogg, who promised to add $10,000 to the fund if the youngsters raised $10,000 of their own. They did and he did. The reefs will be deployed by the beginning of summer.