After a slow start to the 64th Destin Fishing Rodeo things have been rip roaring with fish flying everywhere the last couple of days.
At 5 p.m. Wednesday, the count for fish entries was at 111 entries, but by the time the books were closed on Day 3 of the rodeo, the number was at 165, a far cry from the three fish that were weighed in on Day 1, due to high seas.
“It was nuts,” said Weighmaster Bruce Cheves. “We went to 7:34.”
At 7 p.m. when the scales are slated to close, there were six or eight boats in line, Cheves said. “At one time during the evening there were as many as 10. It was like the first day usually is. But there are still some empty spots on the board.
“But it was as wild as it gets, and we were going as hard as we could,” Cheves said.
Miss Destin Callie Kaltz who checked in at the docks around 2 p.m. Wednesday said she was at the docks getting her photo taken with fish until 7:45 p.m.
“It was crazy, I never sat down the whole day,” Callie said. Her only break was a two second run inside AJ’s to get a Coke and back out to the fish.
And with every fish that hits the docks, there is a story to follow.
On Wednesday, 85-year-old Macon Work weighed in a 2.4-pound lane snapper to get on the leader board. He was fishing aboard the New Florida Girl with Capt. Jason Hindman.
He was probably one of the oldest fishermen of the day, and he just happened to be fishing on one of Destin’s oldest party boats.
Seconds later, Robert Ratcliff on the private boat White Cap pulled at the scales with a whopper of a king mackerel. His mackerel weighed 41.6-pounds whole, but when it was gutted it tilted the scales at 39.6 pounds.
Ratcliff said he was fishing about three miles off the beach in Walton County when he landed the fish. The bait of choice was a live ruby lip. However, this wasn’t Ratcliff’s first rodeo or biggest king. He said back in 1965 he was a deckhand on the Barracuda with Capt. Hank Martin when they landed a 54-pound king mackerel that won the rodeo.
However, he said he’s not stopping with the 39-pounder, he’s going back out in search of a bigger one.
Other big fish that hit the docks on Wednesday included a 59-pound wahoo caught by Jason Rodgers on The Great Escape, a 50.4-pound amberjack reeled in on the Strange Brew by Eric Russell, and a 50.4-pound grouper caught by Robert Sconiers on the Cari Lynd.
Thursday was just as crazy as Wednesday with 75 fish weighed in for spots on the board.
One of the largest of the day was a 59-pound amberjack that hit the docks just after 3 p.m. Sixty-eight-year old Todd Spann of Georgia was the angler on the rod that hauled in the huge fish on the Big John with Capt. Todd Allen.
“He kicked my hiney,” Spann said as he filled out his paper work at the judges’ table. And after the 30-minute fight, Spann said, “It was time for a cold beer. I’m took old for this.”
Either way his fish was one of the largest brought to the scales.
Not long after, musician Ronnie Satterfield came walking up with a king mackerel he caught on a paddle board.
Satterfield said he caught the 8.2-pound king mackerel on his first cast with a cigar minnow. “Boom” it was on, he said. Not only did he catch it on his first cast, but this was also his first fishing trip on a paddle board.
Not too shabby for a singer/guitar picker.
A little after 4 p.m. Thursday, 9-year-old Dalen Johnson brought in a catfish for a certificate and a free rod and reel. Although he got his certificate, he told Cheves that he wanted to donate his rod and reel to another kid.
So what did he do? He went and found a youth in the bleachers and gave him his free rod and reel.
Connor Freeman, 9, of Birmingham, Ala., was excited to get the rod and reel and said he plans to use it to go fishing at his grandfather’s.
Well about an hour-and-a-half later, Freeman came walking up to the rodeo scales with a catfish of his own that he caught with his new gift. He also decided to pay it forward, and give his rod and reel for his catfish to his younger brother.
There are so many tales behind the fish that are being brought to the scales at the rodeo.
Come on down and get a firsthand look. The scales are open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.
See you on the docks.