Stelluna steals the show with massive yellowfin

Tina Harbuck | 315-4466 | @DestinLogTina | tharbuck@thedestinlog.com
The crew aboard the Stelluna wowed the crowd at the Destin Fishing Rodeo Thursday afternoon with this 177.6-pound yellowfin tuna. Standing from left are Stephen Jenkins, Tom Biggar, Capt. Judah Barbee, deckhand Jayson Self and angler Jostin Crass of Tennessee. DEVON RAVINE/THE LOG

Unlike in the movie "Jaws," the boat was plenty big. The fish box — that was a different story.

From the moment Capt. Judah Barbee and his group aboard the Stelluna backed in at the Destin Fishing Rodeo scales Thursday afternoon, it was apparent their fish was too big for the box as a huge tuna tail hung out the side.

“It was supposed to be a 10-hour trip, but we didn’t have a lot of room. We needed a bigger fish box,” said Capt. Barbee, noting they cut their trip about three hours short on Thursday.

As they hauled the huge tuna across the rodeo barge behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar and hoisted it onto the scales a crowd gathered and cell phones came out with folks trying to capture photos of the massive tuna. Weighmaster Bruce Cheves called a “time is” and weighed the yellowfin tuna in at 177.6 pounds.

“I thought it was about 120 to 150 pounds,” said an elated Capt. Barbee.

“It’s taller than me,” said the 5-foot-7 Jostin Crass of Clarksville, Tennessee, who reeled it in.

Captain said they were fishing about 25 miles out of Destin and “chunking for blackfin tuna,” but found a huge yellowfin instead.

Barbee said the yellowfin didn’t hesitate to take the bait when they tossed a chunk of bonito out.

“It ran straight up the front of the boat … we had to chase him,” Barbee said, noting when they finally got the fish to the boat about an hour and 15 minutes later, they were about two miles from where they originally hooked the fish.

“It was a battle,” Barbee said.

“They kept telling me to pull up on him and I couldn’t get it to pull up at all,” Crass said. “My forearm got to hurting.”

“We’d get a half spool on him and then he’d dump it again,” Barbee said.

After that first initial long run off the front of the boat, Barbee said the tuna went down.

“We’d get on top of it and it would run again,” he said, noting the tuna did that about three or four times.

“He was mad. He didn’t want to come in,” Crass said.

The crew aboard the Stelluna finally won the battle.

“We finally got on top of it and worked it on up,” Barbee said.

The yellowfin took over the first place spot on the Destin Fishing Rodeo leaderboard in the Offshore Divisin for yellowfin tuna.

Although it’s pretty special making it atop the leaderboard, Capt. Barbee said what made it even more memorable was that on this same day a year ago, his father Chris passed away.

“I think he might have been there with us today,” Barbee said as he got back on the boat to leave the scales.