Fish Flash: Boats of all sizes bring in big fish

Deckhand Matt Ricks of the One Mo'r tries to get the huge grouper back in the box.

What do big boats, small boats and even kayaks have in common when it comes to rodeo fishing?

Answer — catching big fish.

The last few days of the 64th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo have seen some big fish slap against the docks.

On Sunday, Miki McClung started the day with a doormat of a flounder that tilted the scales at 6 pounds for a top spot in the Quantum Inshore Division. She was fishing aboard the Come Fly With Me with Capt. Larry McClung.

“It was my first-ever,” Miki said of the 2-foot long flounder.

Capt. Gary Jarvis aboard the 57-foot Back Down 2 and his crew got on the board Sunday with a couple of fish in the Extended Voyage Division. Roger Sloan pulled in a 63.4-pound yellowfin tuna for a first place slot and David Franklin landed a 14.8-pound dolphin to take a lead spot.

Capt. Jarvis said they left Friday night for the extended trip and they backed in at the rodeo scales around 3:30 p.m. Sunday.

Although Sunday was not Shark Saturday, it didn’t stop the boats from bringing in Jaws. Milton’s Dennis Pinckard wowed the crowd with a mako he caught on the Back Down 2, then shortly after the What Doin? pulled in with a shark of its own.

Mayme Lunsford of Niceville was the angler who reeled in the 123.8-pound grey shark. Capt. Kent Hardin of What Doin? said they were fishing about 22 miles out when the shark took the bait.

“He ate a 4-pound blue runner,” Hardin said.

“It was a steady pull,” Lunsford said. Captain said it took her about 45 minutes to get the shark in the boat. Her catch is leading in the Mako My Day Shark Division.

Lunsford also weighed in a 32-pound king mackerel for a top spot in the Ladies Division.

The kayakers even got in on the big fish action on Sunday with Lynn Usery of Miramar Beach on his kayak tagged Bonito reeling in a 6-pound redfish for a top spot on the board.

Before the day was done, Capt. Brant Kelly and the crew aboard the 65-foot Relentless came in with a 59.2-pound grouper to take the lead in the Ladies Division for grouper.

The big fish just kept coming on Monday.

Sixty-eight year old Gary Murphree of Cookeville, Tenn., reeled in a 14.8-pound grouper for a first place slot in the Senior Division. He was fishing aboard the 40-foot First Light with Capt. Steve Haueusler.

Next up was the 24-foot Don’t Hate with a first-place king mackerel caught by Courtnie Cox of Tennessee.

About 4:30 p.m. Monday, a whopper of a fish hit the deck.

Capt. Brian Friend and crew aboard the 31-foot One Mo’r drug in a whale of a grouper that titled the scales at 61.4 pounds. Destin’s Jeff Eckmann was the angler on the rod that tangled with the fish.

“I knew it was a big fish when I hooked it,” Eckmann said. “It was heavy at the start.”

Eckmann said it took about 15 minutes to haul in the grouper.

Capt. Friend said they were fishing about 35 miles out.

“We had a feeling there was a big one there,” Friend said. “He busted us off a couple times snapper fishing.”

The grouper, that weighed 64-pounds whole, took over the lead in the Charter Boat Division.

Just to give you a better idea of how big the grouper was, the tail measured 16 inches wide.

A few minutes later, John Blanchard on the RJ, and under-25-foot vessel, with Capt. Joe Lowery came in with a 5-pound speckled trout for a first place spot on the board.

Right before 6 p.m., Capt. Kelly Windes on the Sunrise, a 53-footer, came in with two whopper amberjack.

Debbie Spurgeon landed a 64.2-pound amberjack for a first place in the Ladies Division and then they brought out the big one.

Ted Hunsaker weighed in an 85-pounder for second place overall in the Charter Boat Division. “It pulled real hard,” Hunsaker said. “I had to have a lot of help.”

Capt. Windes said the big amberjack took about 15 minutes to get in the boat, noting it put up a pretty good fight.

If you are up for the fight and looking to catch a big fish, jump on a boat, any size’ll do ya.

The rodeo 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.