Destin Boats & Fishing Since 1980

The Ships Chandler History by Peter Wright

The Ships Chandler began in 1979 after my dad retired from a great career in the USAF and started a commercial fishing company that needed fishing tackle and supplies. The name, The Ships Chandler, made sense since a ship’s chandler in the old days was a person who provided supplies, provisions, cargo and crew to the boats.

My parents moved to Destin in the spring of 1970 after a transfer from England AFB, Louisiana, and my parents were forced to move to Destin because the cost of a home in Destin was the only city in the area that was affordable. Bummer! Destin was charter boats, commercial net boats and commercial bandit boats, a few hotels and a bunch of hard working people, fish heads, that became family. The Destin’s, Marlers, Melvin’s and Maltezos, all commercial and charter fisherman, helped me understand what being raised in a Destin fishing village is all about. Pride and responsibility! I got to start at the bottom, understanding at 12 that I needed to work hard to be what I saw in them. I made the best friends I will ever have and to this day still are, ALL OF THEM. One of my favorite things to say now is “If I have a party at my house, expect to see the banker and the bum I grew up with”.

I really started my adult fishing career when I left in the ’70s to fish the Florida Keys, West Palm beach, Bahamas and the Caribbean. I learned the fine arts of fishing in the Keys. I proceeded to fish Palm Beach catching Sailfish, using the knowledge I learned in Destin and the Keys which proved mighty helpful. We broke records on line class and on numbers in a day. The one record that may not ever be broken is the number of sails in one day – 83 sailfish in one day on one boat with 3 anglers. We pioneered fishing the Caribbean for blue marlin, going places no one had been.
I met my wife Beth in St Thomas USVI and knew she was the one. So I worked as hard as I could to catch the best fish of my life. We came back to West Palm for a winter season and together we decided to move back to Destin and help my dad with my knowledge in the fishing industry and to start a family.

When I came in the business in 1980 with my dad, the business was located in a couple of rooms we remodeled at the Braden Motel. This great spot was located across the street from the Kelly, Marler and Braden docks. I charter-fished and worked in the store on my days off and during the off season. Beth and I got married in the fall of 1981 after the season ended. She taught school in FWB and to this day still does as a ESE teacher at Silver Sands School.

The business and my family grew and struggled as most business do but with the support of the Village it overcame everything – hurricanes, recessions, oil spills. When Destin was finally discovered by others, off we went and here we are and here to stay as a family business helping families enjoy Destin as I was.

Now the fishing. I’ve fished the Barrier Reef in Australia and fished in every ocean with the exception of the Indian Ocean. I’ve caught most every kind of Big Game fish species and eaten and caught most reef fish that swims. I can talk the talk and walk the walk – I’m not just bragging. I have also done what no other boat dealer or tackle dealer has done in this area, I have taught thousands of people to fish in Destin and other areas of the world. This is important because when you go to a boat dealer or a tackle store and there is someone selling you and not teaching you … beware.

Destin has always been my favorite place to fish. Fishing is close and there is always something to catch. I’m not saying you can catch Blue Marlin 6 miles out, although Bruce Marler did catch the first blue Marin out of Destin 6 miles out, but from Blue Marlin to blue fish you can catch it out of Destin. The other thing is the fishing is predictable. I can tell you what to expect to catch in July or any other month of the year because I have been doing it for over 45 years. Yes, some years might be better than others but that’s just fishing. Destin, I have found, is a great place to get kids into fishing. I raised my kids fishing and even let them skip school for the first day of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Bait fish that we just look at as bait, a two-year-old thinks it a fish and they catch tons of them. King Mackerel that I eat all the time are right out the pass. Cobia and tarpon swim along the beach, 100 yards off the coast. Fish 50 pound redfish on Crab Island in the fall after all the boaters leave. Giant marlin and tuna are at the oil rigs and are waiting to be caught year around. What I am saying is I don’t care where you bought the boat, what boat you bought, if it’s your boat or a borrowed boat, I will teach you with patience how to use it for the most fun you have ever had.

Since my son, Peter, graduated from Auburn University, he’s worked at the store and has fished many of the places I have. He is a USCG Licensed captain, a very good fisherman, a wonderful father and husband, and is now the captain of The Ships Chandler. His twin daughters come here after school to help with things. We have two labs that allow you to feed them and rub their ears if you would like. Everyone here is very nice and respectful. I invite you to come by and visit. Come by and sit on the dock and enjoy the atmosphere and let me or anyone here answer any questions you might have about fishing or the history of the area.