Blue marlin draws big crowd at Rodeo

Tina Harbuck

When it comes to fishing, sometimes all you can do is grab hold of the rod and hold on.

And that’s exactly what 67-year old Tony Ross of Arkansas did when he hooked up with a 300-plus pound blue marlin while fishing aboard the Bow’d Up with Capt. Brady Bowman.

“I was just trying to hold on … I’m too old for this,” Ross said.

Ross was one of about a half-dozen anglers from Arkansas that chartered a three-day trip with Bowman for the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Sunday afternoon word on the docks had started spread that the Bow’d Up was due in from an extended trip, which usually means a big haul of fish.

The Bow’d Up didn’t disappoint.

After weighing in a 33.2-pound wahoo for a top spot on the Rodeo leaderboard, they weighed in a pair of dolphin, a 25.4 and a 14.4-pounder to take first and second on the board.

Then they hauled out the big fish.

It took about four guys to pull the massive blue marlin off the boat and to the scales. At that point, Miss Destin Brooke O’Keefe, Rodeo volunteer Ann White and a crew member pulled and pulled on the rope to lift the marlin on the scales and into full view for the crowd gathered on the docks at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

With the crowd closing in to get a better glimpse at the huge fish, weighmaster Bruce Cheves said “time is” and then waited a second or two to build anticipation, then called out the weight — 321.6 pounds.

The blue marlin is in first place in the Offshore Division of the Rodeo.

“It was a thrill,” Ross said of fighting the fish.

This is Ross’ second blue marlin. He said he caught one a couple of years ago that was estimated at 400 pounds before it was released.

As for this blue marlin, it died during the fight so they brought it in to the Rodeo.

Ross explained that when the marlin took the bait he jumped three or four times.

“Then he came out of the water and went about 200 yards. I was trying to hold on," Ross said. “I think when he jumped that last time, the line got around his tail. He never did fight after that …he was just dead weight.”

Capt. Bowman said they were fishing about 73 miles out on Saturday when they hooked the blue marlin.

“It ran, it jumped, it greyhounded. It was pretty sweet,” Bowman said.

“It put up a good fight (until it got tail wrapped),” he added.

Bowman said it took Ross about 25 minutes to get the marlin to the boat.

In addition to the marlin, the Arkansas group also hauled in a 101.6-pound swordfish caught by Hayden Holt.

They also got on the leaderboard with a 31.4-pound and a 27.2-pound king mackerel for first and second place.

“It was a pretty good bite,” Bowman said.

They loaded up on dolphin, went one for two on blue marlin, one for four on white marlin and one for two on swordfish.