When you have a line in the water, you just never know what’s going to come over the rail. Such was the case aboard the party boat Swoop with Capt. Nick Price last Friday.
While out bottom fishing like customers do most every day on the Swoop, angler Thomas McInnish of Ozark, Missouri, reeled in what was believed to be an 8 pound 5 ounce white grunt — which would have been a world record, beating the 6 pounds 8 ounce fish on the books.
It looked to be similar to a “ruby red lip,” which is common bait fish for this area, but it was much bigger.
“The crew knew it was something good because it was bigger than anything they had seen,” said McInnish, who has fished from the east to the west coast.
“We didn’t think about it being a grunt (because of its size),” McInnish added, noting it took up the whole bottom of the fish basket.
The average size of a white grunt is about 8-10 inches.
“I’ve seen grunts before, but little, about the size of your hand,” McInnish said. “Never have I seen one that large.”
The fish measured 23 ½ inches in length.
Because of the large size of the fish, the shape of looked different.
“It doesn’t look like the same animal,” McInnish said.
The deckhands took the fish up to the wheelhouse to the captain.
“I had to make some calls because I didn’t know what we had,” Price said.
Even late Friday afternoon, there were still questions as to what kind of fish they had.
Some thought it was a white grunt, others a margate grunt.
However, after Jim Roberson, the International Game and Fish Association representative for this area, took a look at a few photos of the fish, he said he was “99 percent” sure it was a tomtate grunt, noting the red mouth.
The All-Tackle world record for a tomtate is 1 pound 4 ounces.
On Friday when the Swoop got back to HarborWalk Marina, they weighed and measured the fish and filled out the paperwork for a possible world record.
The next step, according to Roberson, is for him to actually see the fish first hand to verify the species and then check off on the paperwork and make sure it is signed by the weighmaster.
“I have the chance to fish all over,” McInnish said, noting he has been fortunate enough to fish the Pacific, Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico near the Keys, but never out of Destin.
McInnish and his family were just traveling through Destin on their way back from a trip to Disney World to celebrate his daughter’s 18th birthday.
“It was nice to get the opportunity. We didn’t plan it, but it was neat," McInnish said. “They were great guys on the Swoop, can’t say enough about them.”
Captain was just as surprised by the catch.
“We’d never seen anything like that,” Price said. “We’ve caught some cool stuff like African pompano, but nothing like that. You just never know what you’re going to catch out here.”