It may have been slower than usual these first few days of the Destin Fishing Rodeo, but the folks are still coming in with their catches with stories to tell.
Thursday, Day 5 of the month-long fishing tournament, was an eventful day.
Pay ‘N’ Dues came in a little after 2 o’clock with a pair of cobia to weigh in. They had a 16.4-pounder and a 19.4-pound that made it on to the big board, as weighmaster Bruce Cheves likes to call the main leaderboard. Jaiden Lawrence, 13, of Kentucky, was the angler who pulled in both fish, but there is only one slot for cobia on the board.
About 3:30 p.m. the SS Mullett pulled in with a pair of king mackerel, both caught by Amanda Bell of DeFuniak Springs. She weighed in a 16.6-pounder and an 18.2-pounder. She managed to get on the board in two different spots, ladies division and the 25-and under private division.
“The little one we caught about 13 miles out and the big one right out by the sea buoy,” said Capt. Billy Sexton. “Sometimes it’s better right out in your backyard.”
Several youngsters came in with fish to weigh in for free rod and reels and certificates recording their catches.
But one of the neatest was Raylan Williams, 3, of Niceville, who landed his first fish ever. He caught it fishing off the docks. He was all smiles as he posed with his fish for photos.
Not long after, Dalton Morrison of Navarre came walking up with a bonito and king mackerel he caught off the pier. Morrison, who was celebrating his 19th birthday on Thursday, started fishing the Rodeo with his dad when he was about 12 years old.
“I think my first fish was a king mackerel,” he said.
Keeping with tradition, he got on the board Thursday with two first place fish, a 4.6-pound bonito and a 13.8-pound king mackerel. Both fish took first place slots in the Pier, Bridge, Jetty and Surf Division.
About 5:30 p.m., Capt. Rusty Gilbert of the Mary Lou came walking up with a couple of guys to turn in paperwork on a tag and release on a sailfish.
Captain said the sailfish was approximately 70 pounds.
“We hooked him about half mile off the beach,” Gilbert said.
But by the time they got the fish to the boat and hour and a half later, they were about two miles out.
Angler on the road was Kemper Gokman of Huntsville, Alabama.
“It was exhausting,” Gokman said. “That was the most time I’ve spent with a fish trying to catch it … it was intense.”
Gokman said they thought it was a king mackerel at first and then the fish took off and jumped, that’s when they realized it was a sailfish.
Captain said the sailfish jumped out six or seven times and took out a lot of line.
“He was maneuvering the boat so I could get closer,” Gokman said. “There was a time when I had about maybe three or four inches of line left and I thought it’s going to get ripped out of my hands.”
But then Gilbert maneuvered the boat and he was able to get it in.
“The excitement dampened all the pain in my left hand, which is now permanently in the shape of a hook,” Gokman said. “It was cool stuff.”
And like most first-time anglers who pull in a billfish, Gokman got tossed in the water when they got back to the docks.
Just moments later, Capt. Kyle Lowe on the Special K backed in with a pair of barracuda that took first and second place on the big board. Katie Peavy weighed in a 13.2-pounder and Wes Leder a 31.2-pounder.
“We got tired of them eating our mackerel,” Lowe said.
One of the last fish on Thursday was a 24.4-pound blackfin tuna pulled in by David Stone on the Bow’d Up with Capt. Brady Bowman. The tuna was good for a daily and second place on the big board.
The Relentless holds the top blackfin tuna spot with a 27.2-pounder caught by a Louisiana anglers.
But one thing is for sure, things are always changing at the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
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 at the docks.