‘Slinging fish’ - Dead Fish Charters alive and kicking at Grayton Beach
For more than four decades, Capt. Larry Pentel has been fishing off the beaches of Walton County.
"It's never the same two days running," said Pentel of Dead Fish Charters.
Nevertheless, he does know how and where to find the fish.
Wednesday morning he took a group of hard-core fisherman out on a four-hour trip and they brought back a 75-pound cobia and a limit of red snapper. In the afternoon, he took his neighbors out, the Barretts, for a short trip of snapper fishing.
"We were out an hour-and-twenty minutes to get these," he said looking at the snapper hanging on the side of the boat. "And we were never more than three miles from the truck."
For Foley Barrett, 9, and his brother Bridger, 11, it was their first time to Gulf fish.
"This was the funnest fishing trip I've ever had," Foley said. "It was hard. I won … I caught the most fish."
And family fishing is what Pentel specializes in.
"I mostly run 4s, 3s and 2s this time of year — family trips" Pentel said. "We're not running long distances. We run seven or eight miles on a four-hour trip and that's a long run."
"When you've got a lot of kids they want to be catching fish … having a blast," he said.
The same is true for Pentel.
Pentel says his 30-year old daughter has tried to get him to get a bigger boat for years and a hire deckhand, where he could sit up in the air conditioned wheelhouse.
"Why do I want to be doing that," he said. "I might as well be in an office. I want to be on the deck and slinging fish, in the middle of it. It's no fun sitting in the wheelhouse."
Pentel, who lives on Eastern Lake, started chartering boats off the beach at Grayton full-time 14 years ago. But, the now 55-year-old, got his first taste of fishing at the age of 12 when they would launch boats into the Gulf by rolling them on pipes.
Today is a different day with boat trailers and electric winches.
"I was actually born in Walton County," he said, noting he spent the first 18 years of his life living right across the street from the Silver Sands Premium Outlets.
He moved to Fort Walton Beach for a couple of years, then back to Walton where he's been ever since.
Pentel retired from LM Seafood in 1999 to start charter fishing.
"I retired to work 18 hours a day and have my hands cut up," he laughed.
His first boat was a 20-foot Carolina Skiff. "I was 6-foot-8 the day I bought the boat," he said with a chuckle.
Prior to the skiff he ran a Boston Whaler off the beach for about 15 years, but the skiff was his first charter.
After about four years with the skiff, he got his first catamaran.
"This is my third catamaran I've run off the beach," he said. "These 20-foot cat hulls are a lot smoother ride, they don't pound you. And you can run the bow right up on the beach. They sit flat, they don't lay over and they are easy for folks to get on and off."
Dead Fish Charters launches right off the beach at Grayton behind the Red Bar.
"All the folks that stay here think it's great," Pentel said, because they don't have to get up as early to catch the boat.
He says he usually leaves about 7 or 7:30 a.m.
However, "if it's rough we don't go," Pentel said, noting it's hard to launch the boat if the surf is kicking up.
"And if the tide is low like it is right now you have to winch them on the trailer … but we've worked it out over the last 20 years with everybody doing it," he said.
Right now, Pentel, as well as other South Walton captains, is targeting red snapper.
However he says he personally likes to sight fish for cobia, triple tail and redfish … or cruising a tide line and throwing at mahi.
"I love to sight fish, but I love a mackerel rally too and I love to catch red snapper," he said.
But the best fish is a dead fish and "we always come in with dead fish."
Want to go:
To charter a trip with Capt. Larry Pentel on Dead Fish Charters call 685-1092. He also charters trips for tarpon and sight fishing at Indian Pass.