Full Pull pulls in first cobia of season

Harri Hotti, left and Capt. Chris Wagner pulled in the first cobia, a 54.6-pounder, of the season aboard the Full Pull. Hotti was using a spinning reel with 30-pound test with an eel for bait.

They’ve done it again.

The crew aboard the Full Pull landed the first cobia, a 54.6-pounder, Monday afternoon just off the beach about five miles east of the Navarre Pier.

The cobia reeled in by Harri Hotti of Finland kicks off the Destin Cobia Tournament at HarborWalk Marina. For  his efforts he gets $300 for weighing in the first fish.

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“It was awesome,” he relayed to The Log, via a translation from his sister Hanna Joensuu.

“You catch one cobia and your life change,” Hotti plainly said.

Hotti, who is a fishing guide in Finland, is here visiting his sister in Shalimar for a few months.

“This is good captain,” he said, pointing to Capt. Chris Wagner of the Full Pull.

“It was kind of a slow fish, but very strong,” Hanna translated.

Although this was Hotti’s first cobia, it certainly wasn’t the first for the Full Pull crew.

As a matter of fact, they have brought in the first cobia of the season about 14 times in the last 20 years.

“I don’t know why we do it,” said Capt. Wagner who mans the boat along with Capt. Andy Block. “Sometimes I just think we’re crazy and can’t help it.

“It’s fun when it starts. Looking for that first one is like looking for 20 of them. It’s the same thing.

“It’s a beautiful ride down the beach … the green emerald water, drink a cold beer and look for cobia fish. It’s just awesome.”

Monday was the Full Pull’s third day to search for a cobia.

Wagner said they went out Saturday and a for a little bit on Sunday.

“I honestly thought we would catch one on Saturday, but we didn’t see any,” Wagner said.

And on Sunday they were on the water for just a short time, due to the clouds.

“We didn’t want to go far, cause if it wasn’t going to be good, I wanted to go home and watch NASCAR,” Wagner said.

However the conditions were all right Monday.

The sun was shining and the “seas were as calm as glass,” Wagner said.

They ran toward Pensacola and didn’t see any cobia on the way down.

“The tide was low on the way down, but as the tide came in, the  water got a little cleaner and obviously heading back it was getting better and better,” Wagner said.

Just before 3 p.m., about four miles east of the Navarre Pier they spotted a cobia.

“He came right down the bow, kind of deep and we missed him on the first pass. We didn’t get a shot at him,” he said.

The cobia went inshore.

“We spun the boat around and found him again down deep and threw the eel. We got a good clean shot at  him and he just woofed it,” Wagner said.

“He (Hotti) had  a real good fight. It took him about 15 or 20 minutes,” Wagner said.

Then he recanted.

“I don’t know, it seemed a lot longer than what it was,” he said, noting it was probably more like 10 to 15 minutes.

“Harri did a good job.”

On Monday it was just Wagner and Hotti on the boat. After Hotti wore the fish down, Wagner came down out of the bridge and put a gaff in the fish.

At that point, all that was left to do was get back to HarborWalk for the weighin.

Somewhere between Okaloosa Island Pier and East Pass, Wagner said the boat kind of wobbled. He pulled the throttles back and when he opened the engine hatch he realized he had a cracked line.

But they still made it to the docks before 5 p.m.

The line problem is an easy fix, and the guys have plans to be back on the water soon.

“Maybe we go tomorrow,” Hotti said.

“Every year I get to go cobia fishing is a good one. It never gets old.”

The Destin Cobia Tournament at HarborWalk Marina ends April 30 at 8 p.m. with an awards celebration at 6 p.m. May 6 at Harry T’s. The scales will be open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily at the marina.