With a blast of a whistle from weighmaster Bruce Cheves, the 70th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo got under way Monday morning with the first fish hitting the scales at 10:02 a.m.
The first fish to hit the scales was a 6-pound redfish caught by 11-year-old Connor Yeric of Kentucky aboard Destin Inshore Guides with Capt. Josh Calhoon.
However, they weren’t the only ones trying to get that first fish. Capt. Casey Godwin aboard the Suzie Q and his anglers were ready and waiting, as well as a couple from the Miss Aegina.
So in just a matter of minutes there were a half dozen fish already on the leaderboard. But by the end of day, the number of fish entries hit the 88 mark with the last fish hitting the scales about 8 p.m.
“We’re off to a good start,” said Rodeo Chairman John Brashears. “It was a hot and busy day … and we had some nice fish. The ’jacks off the Mollie were nice and we had several nice dolphin and wahoo come in.”
The amberjack Brashears was referring to were brought in aboard the Mollie with Capt. Jeff Shoults. Brad Cole of Georgia weighed in a 67.6-pound amberjack for a first place slot in the Private Boat Division, and Johnny Eady also of Georgia took second with a 53.8 pounder.
The Backdown 2 with Capt. Phillip Blackburn also had a huge amberjack, a 51.8 pounder caught by Roger Latsha of Arkansas.
Earlier in the day, the Great Escape came in with a 4.4-pound Spanish mackerel caught by 9-year-old Jacey Rogers. Rogers catch was the largest Spanish of the day.
Right behind them was the Maximus with a couple of cobia that held on the board in the Reef Division. Susi Jones caught a 19 pounder, while Rick Lofton reeled in a 14.8 pounder. They are holding first and second place.
Around 1 p.m., Capt. Paul Dale Wagner aboard the Seahorse came in with a 12.4-pound king mackerel caught by Braden Smith of Tennessee. His king was the largest of the day.
Although some pretty good fish were hitting the docks, word was it was pretty rough on the Gulf on Monday.
Wagner said they were fighting 3-to 5-foot seas most of the day.
“It was rough as hell,” he said.
As a matter of fact, Capt. Scott Whitehurst aboard On The Bite said they stayed mostly on the bay side because it was so rough. But it paid off for them. Davie Bromley pulled in a 6-pound speckled trout for a first place spot on the leaderboard and his other angler, Mickel Guari, landed a 3.2 pounder. They also snagged a 9.4-pound grouper for a spot in the 25-and-under Charter Boat Division.
Just before 4 p.m., the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit with Capt. Jim Green came in with an 11.8-pound king mackerel caught by Ted Schlegel for a first place spot in the Party Boat Division. They also had the first place black snapper, a 5.4 pounder caught by John Joseph.
About 4:30 p.m., Capt. Mike Graef and his group aboard the Huntress came in with nice fish. Elizabeth Esposito weighed in a 31.2-pound grouper for a spot in the Ladies Division. Erika Partanen weighed in a 37.4-pound amberjack for a first in the Ladies Division as well. They also had a 17-pound Almaco Jack and a scamp.
But Graef also said it was rough out.
“It was a typical Oct. 1 … Rocktober. But they hung tough,” Graef said of his anglers.
As for the nice dolphin and wahoo that Brashears mentioned, the Sweet Jody came in with a 15.6-pound dolphin caught by Willie Beedle and the Rewind backed in with a 12.8-pound dolphin for a spot on the board. In the wahoo department, Ryne Porter of Arkansas landed a 26-pounder while fishing aboard the Sure Lure.
With this being the 70th Rodeo, the Rodeo is doing a couple of extra surprises. The first happened on Day 1 with the 70th fish to hit the scale caught by Lauren McNally of Navarre aboard the Sweet Jody with Capt. Cliff Cox. Her 6-pound king mackerel took second place on the board. For her fish, she was awarded a huge cooler from Half Hitch Tackle, a gift card to Ruth’s Chris, a Rodeo poster and T-shirt and other items.
Monday was just first of 31 days of Rodeo fishing and you don’t want to miss out. The scales will be open daily on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.
See you at the scales.