First time Gulf fishermen rack up before rodeo

Tina Harbuck | 315-4466 | @DestinLogTina | Tharbuck@thedestinlog.com

After finding Capt. Mike Eller of the Lady Em through a Google search, a group of six guys from Iowa loaded up in a 2005 Suburban and traveled 20 hours to haul in the catch of a lifetime.

“I was just hoping for a 50-pounder. That was my goal,” said Terry Klein.

However he reeled in more than he could ever imagine, a 115.1-pound yellowfin tuna.

Prior to the three-day fishing trip aboard the Lady Em, the biggest thing Klein had ever caught was a 49-pound flathead catfish.

It took Klein two hours and 40 minutes to haul in the whopping tuna.

“My arm still hurts. It would give a little, then take a lot. And it was hot when I hooked it up. It wore me out,” Klein said.

Klein’s yellowfin was just one of eight brought in by the group of guys who mostly work for Blue Bunny Ice Cream back in Iowa.

In addition to the tuna, the guys caught 30 head of scamp, king mackerel, Almaco Jack, blackfin tuna, barracuda, mingo and a snowy grouper.

Capt. Eller said they were fishing about 160 miles out at their furthest point.

“This was a pre-Rodeo warm up trip,” Eller said.

The Destin Fishing Rodeo kicks off Saturday with the first fish sure to hit the docks by 10 a.m. at the scales located behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar along Destin harbor. The scales will be open daily throughout the month of October from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.

“This trip was to see where we need to go during the Rodeo,” Eller said.

From the looks of the rack of fish behind his boat Thursday afternoon, he has found the honey hole.

“There are tuna for days … big scamps and big tunas are what’s biting,” Eller said.

Klein’s son Dalton was the one who ran the Google search for three-day fishing trips when the Lady Em popped up.

“We wanted a good chance to catch good fish. And it looks like we made a good choice,” he said looking at the rack full of fish. “We didn’t want to travel this far for one-day of fishing.”

The guys hit the road Sunday and traveled 15 hours before stopping in Tupelo, Mississippi. They drove the rest of the way Monday and loaded up on the Lady Em that evening for a three-night fishing adventure.

“I have never even seen the ocean before,” said Hunter Lucas, who was used to lake or river fishing back home.

“That was awesome,” said Steven Graham.

“Those fish fight a lot better than the freshwater fish I’m used to catching,” said Matt Brienzo.

For the six guys, it was a first-time Gulf fishing trip. However, there was a resounding “oh yeah” when asked if they would do it again.

“Without a doubt,” Brienzo said.

“Not even a doubt,” Dalton chimed in.

After posing for photos with several of the fish, the deckhands started cleaning and bagging fish.

When asked how many coolers they brought to haul their catch home, Terry was quick to answer, “Probably not enough.”