For every fish tale there was a fish award — at least it appeared that way at the 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo Awards Sunday evening at AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar.
Not only did the month-long fishing tournament break all records with 1,540 fish entries, but the awards ceremony drew one of the largest crowds with standing room only.
Following the roast and potato buffet, the handing out of the awards began.
Although every award is "big" some were bigger than others and came with a fat check.
The AJ's Bonus Award for the boat and angler that caught the largest amberjack in the tournament received hefty checks from AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar. Placing first and the recipient of $3,000 was C. Douglas Anderson of Destin with his 93-pouund amberjack caught aboard the Only Way with Capt. Curt Gwin. Second place and $2,000 went to Chase Barnhill of Crestview for his 90-pounder caught on the Strange Brew with Capt. Ken Nettles. Third, and the winner of $1,000, went to Dave Miller of Destin for an 85.2-pound pulled in on the EYEced 'Em with Capt. Mike Raim.
The For Reel Photos Captains Awards went to one captain in each of the boat divisions who secured the most points throughout the month. They received points for fish that finished on the leaderboard at the end of the month as well as for dailies.
Capt. Jason Hallmark of the Vengeance won in the Charter Boat division with 129 points, while Capt. Jerry Blane of Rock N Rail won the Private Boat captain award with 86 points.
Party Boat captain of the year was Cliff Cox of the Sweet Jody, who fished 28 days during the tournament and racked up 138 points.
For the Charter Boat Under 25, Capt. L.W. Burroughs of the IntraCoastal eXperience won with 96 points, and Capt. Richard Rogers of Southern Charm won in the Private Boat Under 25 with 87 points.
Not only were captains recognized, but mates as well.
The Charter Boat Mates Awards went to Craig "Groovy" Davis for the largest king mackerel, a 42.6-pounder on the Huntress; Caleb Brown for the largest wahoo, a 44.8-pound on the Al-Lin; Billy Taylor for the largest grouper, a 57.4-pounder on the Twilight; and Seth Brennan, most tagged billfish on the Lady Em.
Justin Goff of Destin won the Mako My Day Shark Division with a 239.4-pounder caught aboard the Gold Wave — which was also the largest fish of the Rodeo.
As for Shark Saturdays, where the largest shark on Saturday wins, the winners were Trent Rogers with a 152.6-pounder caught aboard the Southern Charm; a 138.2-pounder pulled in by Chad Reynolds on the Reel Deal; and another Reel Deal catch pulled in by Taylor Skelley, 172.4 pounds.
Before the night was over, junior anglers to senior anglers who caught mingo to grouper were awarded for their catches — not many left empty handed.
See you at the docks!
Winners of The Destin Log Charter Boats Under 25 Division for first and second place grouper were Michael Walden of Baker with a 43.4-pounder on the Locked Up II with Capt. Ben O'Connor, and Claudiu Rac of Destin with a 20.8-pounder on the Salty Fish with Capt. Greg Rynearson.