FISH FLASH: Rodeo rolls through rough seas and red tide

Tina Harbuck

Neither rough seas or red tide can stop the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Things have been a bit slow the last couple of days at the 67th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, but a few of the captains and anglers have braved the high seas and made it through the red tide to bring in some pretty good catches — some even board changers.

As a matter of fact, the rodeo saw a couple of fish fall on the leader board Thursday.

Dora Lambert of Alpine, Ala. came in with a 24-pound grouper caught aboard the Destin Princess with Capt. Reid Phillips for a first place spot in the Ladies Division. Her catch bested the 21-pounder that was in first caught by Delores Esposito aboard the Huntress.

Although the signs of red tide are evident all along the harbor, dead fish in the water and a stink in the air, it wasn’t so bad for the folks out fishing.

Capt. Phillips said the red tide stopped right at the tide line on Thursday. “You could taste the clean air,” he said, once they got past the line.

The other board changer Thursday came in early. Angela Wegelin of Ohio weighed in a 1.6-pound sheepshead for a second place spot in the Inshore Division. She was fishing with Capt. Jeremy Ruskowski on the Inshore Angler I.

In addition to the board changers, there were several fish that made it onto the daily board Thursday.

Marlin Perry, a rodeo regular, came in with an 18.2-pound grouper caught aboard the American Spirit with Capt. Jim Green. His catch led on the daily board until Lambert knocked him off.

The biggest catch of the day, that didn’t make it on the board, was a 36.4-pound Almaco Jack, also caught on the American Spirit. Ron Miller of Illinois was reeling it in when a hammerhead shark took a chunk out of it. Rodeo rules state that mutilated fish are ineligible for entry. Even with the bite out of the Almaco, it was twice the size of the leader on the board, a 16.2-pounder.

Miller was a bit disappointed, but he still had fun posing for photographs with his catch.

About 4 p.m., Miss Destin Alyssa Bettinger came in from a fishing trip with Capt. Mike Eller on the Lady Em. Bettinger weighed in a 11.2-pound king mackerel and a 10-pound Almaco. But the fish that made it onto the daily board was a 23.8-pound blackfin tuna caught by Kathy Eller.

Not long after they pulled out, Capt. Mike Graef on the Huntress backed in with a couple of fish good for dailies. Tim Carr Jr. of Indiana reeled in a 10.2-pound king mackerel, while Tim Carr Sr. pulled in a 5.4-pound scamp.

The last boat to back in Thursday was the party boat Sweet Jody with Capt. Cliff Cox at the helm. Twelve-year-old Brayden Stumm weighed in a 2.8-pound mingo for the largest by a junior angler, and Bill Pawelczyk pulled in a 9.4-pound Almaco Jack for the largest of the day.

“It was still choppy out, but it’s getting better,” Capt. Cox said.

The rodeo wraps up Saturday at 7 p.m. Don’t miss out on the final day on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

See you at the docks.