When it comes to rodeo fishing, there is no telling what’s going to hit the docks.
And the last couple of days have seen some strange looking fish as well as whoppers in the 64th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.
Friday was the day for the unusual fish. But before the strange looking fish hit the deck, At It Again came in with a pair of speckled trout caught by a father and son duo for a top spot on the leaderboard.
Ward Walthal and Ward Jr. reeled in a 6.2 and 5.4-pounder.
“I’ve been fishing down here for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” dad said. As a matter of fact, when the fish hit and the way it was fighting, Ward said, “I thought it was a redfish.”
Ward Jr. is in first place and dad is second in the 25-foot and under private boat division.
Then the strange fish started to appear. Capt. Eric Thrasher on the Daybreak came in just before 6 p.m. with a yellow edge grouper. It looks like a regular gag grouper, but it has yellow on the fins and yellow around the eyeballs. Ted Hunsaker was the angler that pulled in the 26.2-pound yellow finned fish.
Not long after, the Special K backed in with a huge gag grouper caught by 78-year-old Dick Carr of Destin. “It put me down to my knees when it hit,” Carr said. It took him about 20 minutes to haul in the grouper that is still leading in the senior division for the largest grouper.
Capt. Jason Hallmark and the crew aboard the Vengeance brought in an unfamiliar fish called a pomfret. It was dark in color and a little prickly to the touch. Weighmaster Bruce Cheves took time to take it around and show it to the crowd. According to Britannica, the fish is “relatively rare” and typically found in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean. It is characterized by a single dorsal fin, extending the length of the body in some species.
The next unusual fish to hit the docks was a barrel grouper caught on the Backdown 2 with Capt. Gary Jarvis. Greg Shepherd of Auburn landed the barrel fish. According to a fishing website, the deep-water species is “very slimy. These fish average around 12 to 15-pounds, and put up a pretty good fight coming up from over 300-feet of water.”
Capt. Jarvis and crew had another unexpected catch, not as big, but red. They landed what they called a longfin bass, which looked like a red snapper with long yellow fins.
Rodeo fishing was a little slow on Sunday with 6- to 8-footers in the Gulf. The big fish of the day was brought in on the Don’t Hate with Capt. Scott Whitehurst at the helm. John Benton of Naples landed a 40.2-pound king mackerel for a first place spot in the 25-foot and under charter boat division.
Monday things calmed down and few more boats went out and brought in some big fish.
About 6 o’clock the Twilight with Capt. Robert Hill came in with a few fish that broke onto the leaderboard. Chuck Porter of Tennessee reeled in a 28.8-pound yellow edge grouper to take over in the Reef Division and James Dettman landed a 9.6-pound red grouper for a spot on the daily board.
“The grouper fishing has been unbelievable,” Capt. Hill said.
Minutes later, the Don’t Hate came in with a 26.6-pound barracuda for a first place slot on the board. Paul Gherity of Minnesota landed the sharp-tooth fish.
About 6:30 p.m., Capt. Kelly Windes on the Sunrise came in with a lady angler who was unbelievably excited about her catch. Janis Cannon of Atlanta reeled in 45.2-pound amberjack and a 13-pound red grouper, both for dailies.
“I’ve been fishing with Kelly for about 29 years,” Cannon said. “It’s been great.” She even recalled catching a big grouper years ago and weighmaster Bruce Cheves helping her gut it right on the dock.
Last in for the evening and the biggest of the day was a 75.2-pound wahoo caught by 10-year old Hunter Goodson on an extended trip aboard the Vengeance with Capt. Jason Hallmark.
Capt. Hallmark said they caught the wahoo at night and didn’t even know what it was until deckhand Rodney Johnson put a gaff in him.
“We never knew what it was until we stuck ‘em,” Hallmark said. The crew was out swordfishing at night.
“We thought it was a little shark, but then it swam right beside the boat and we stuck him,” Hallmark said.
When young Hunter was asked if the wahoo pulled hard he just kind of shook his head … no. His dad Josh said Hunter had lost a couple of 100-pound swordfish in the last few days — so the wahoo was “redemption.”
Just like the Vengenance never knew what the fish was until they stuck it, you never know what’s going to show up at the rodeo, so come on down. The scales are open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on the docks behind AJ’s.
See you there.