Charter boats lose a few trips because of Delta; Rodeo rolls on
With Hurricane Delta swirling in the Gulf and Destin in the middle of its largest fishing tournament of the year, the 72nd annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, fishermen were not really feeling the effects Wednesday except for some canceled trips.
"The weather was beautiful. We had a little rolling ground swell, but it's not bad yet by any means," said Capt. Kyle Lowe of the Special K as he stopped at the Rodeo weigh-in Wednesday evening.
Lowe's next trip, however, is not until Sunday.
"I had trips cancel because they were worried about the storm," he said.
On Thursday morning, Delta was a Category 2 hurricane and was expected to gain strength before making landfall in Louisiana.
Capt. Scotty Whitehurst of charter boat On the Bite came in Wednesday evening with a few mackerel and blackfin tuna to weigh in.
"It was nice out. Flat on top with some rollers coming in," Whitehurst said.
"I think (Thursday) is going to be nice but Friday's probably going to be a big swell out there if no wind."
Whitehurst fishes in the Under 25-foot Charter Boat Division of the Rodeo and does venture out in the Gulf.
"But if it's rough in the Gulf, I bay fish and get'er done," he said.
Capt. Billy Sexton of the private boat SS Mullet was fishing about 18 miles off the beach Wednesday and said he saw "no signs of the storm."
"It's just beautiful out there right now ... slick calm," Sexton said.
"I think it's going to be OK," he added as he gutted his mackerel to weigh in at the Rodeo.
"It wasn't bad at all," said Capt. Brady Bowman of the Bow'd Up.
Bowman had a 10- or 12-hour trip on Thursday.
"I'm stoked that it's headed more west but I feel bad for the people that are over there," he said.
Capt. Scott Robson of the charter boat Phoenix had a four-hour trip Wednesday and was only 3 to 4 miles out.
"It was nice out today, no signs of the storm," he said.
As for upcoming trips, "All have canceled the next few days. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, all canceled because of the storm," Robson said. "I have no idea at this point, but if it wobbles I'm out of here. I'm not staying again. I certainly wouldn't stay for no Category 4."
Robson, like many of the Destin fishing fleet, kept his boat in its slip in the harbor for Hurricane Sally that blew through a few weeks ago. By the time Sally wobbled to the east, it was too late to move.
The fishing has been good since then.
"Maybe (Delta) will run some fish in. That's what I'm hoping for; sometimes it does," Rodeo weighmaster Bruce Cheves said.
Cheves recalled after one hurricane a few years ago the grouper moved in so close folks were catching them off the jetties.
"But as far as safety goes, even if it did come here, we recover fast," said Cheves, who noted that after Hurricane Opal in 1995 the Rodeo missed only five days.
And as of Thursday morning, it didn't appear the Rodeo would be shutting down this time.
"I hate it for the folks over there, but I think it's looking good for the Rodeo," said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo. "I'm not planning on losing any days ... unless something changes.
"I'm confident that the weather people are correct this time and we're just going to keep rolling on," she added.
The Rodeo runs all of October and draws thousands of anglers from across the United States. Weigh-ins are daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the docks behind AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar.