Fishing and Dishing with Captain David Krebs

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A popular bumper sticker reads, “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work.” To that, Emerald Coast Captain David Krebs says, “Alleluia!”

ALLELUIA is the name of one of the four fishing boats David operates in Destin Harbor. As both a commercial fisherman and the owner of Ariel Seafoods, David is proud to supply fresh fish to restaurants all over the country, including Gulf to Table eateries here on the Emerald Coast.

David started fishing in 1969 at the age of 11 with his boyhood friend Dewey Destin, great-great-grandson of the founder of Destin and owner of one of the Emerald Coast’s most legendary restaurants, Dewey Destin’s. According to David, “Growing up in Destin in the ’60 and ’70s, you either fished, deck-handed or worked in seafood restaurants. The Gulf was part of our blood.”

David hasn’t regretted his choice of careers. “Being a fisherman in Destin afforded me a chance to see some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen – spinning dolphins, jumping marlin, majestic turtles...all that blue water. Fishing is just a fabulous, fabulous livelihood.”

While a life at sea might sound romantic, it’s also hard work. David’s boats go out for anywhere from two to five days at a time, and crewmembers work approximately 18 hours a day. In one day, a boat catching red snapper can bring in about 2,000 pounds.

But the fleet doesn’t just know how to catch fish; they know how to keep the catch fresh while they’re out on the water. According to David, “The key to fresh fish is what happens the first 12 hours on a boat.”

On David’s boats, the fish is immediately submerged in ice – a process called slushing. Then, after the sun goes down, the fish are gutted. Waiting till nighttime keeps the temperature of the fish from rising, another step to ensure freshness. Then, the fish is packed and put back on ice.

Back on shore, the catch is brought to David’s market, Ariel Seafoods, named after the main character in The Little Mermaid. David started his wholesale fish company in 1991 and today operates out of Destin and Sebastian, Florida, unloading as far west as Louisiana. Here on the Emerald Coast, local chefs are able to come to the market in person to get what they need for that night’s menu.

As part of their commitment to freshness, David’s team participates in the FishTraxTM program. That means your fish comes with a QR code that gives you that fish’s story – it tells you where that fish was caught, who caught it and sometimes even a little about the chef who prepared your meal.

“After the oil spill in the Gulf in 2010, traceability became a real issue. People wanted to know where the fish they were eating came from,” David explained. “Today, it’s still a great way to ensure that the fish you’re being served is fresh, safe and local.”

People also like knowing that the fish industry is acting responsibly. Issues such as sustainability are important to David, and he’s worked hard to protect the fish populations in the Gulf. He is a past Florida president of the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Shareholders’ Alliance. He also served on the Red Snapper Individual Fishing Quota Advisory Panel for the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and has been to New Zealand and British Columbia to study their catch share fishery management systems. David currently serves on the Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Limited Access Privilege Program Advisory Panel and the King Mackerel Individual Fishing Quota Advisory Panel.