Anglers break onto board as rodeo winds down

Tina Harbuck | 315-4466 | @DestinLogTina |
Kent Hardin, 68, hoists his 52-pound king mackerel up for the crowd to see at the Destin Fishing Rodeo Thursday afternoon. His catch is leading in the senior division. TINA HARBUCK/THE LOG

As the 68th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo winds down, it’s getting harder and harder to get on the overall leaderboard with some big catches already posted.

However, on Thursday a few anglers hauled in some big catches for spots on that big board.

One of those was rodeo-regular Marlin Perry of Tennessee, who pulled in an 18.2-pound red grouper for first place in the Party Boat Division. Perry was fishing with Capt. Jim Green on the New Florida Girl’s American Spirit.

Destin’s Ana Leurinda, also aboard the American Spirit, reeled in a 7.8-pound scamp for a first place spot.

The crew on the American Spirit also had a 19-pound gag grouper, caught by Perry, that wasn’t big enough for the big board, but it was good for a daily — making it a “grouper slam” for the Spirit.

Capt. Green said they didn’t catch all three grouper on the same spot but they were within a mile radius of one another.

Earlier in the day, Kai Koenigsfeld of St. Louis, Missouri, who was fishing aboard the Big Deal with Capt. Steven Pixley, brought in a 5.8-pound Spanish mackerel for a second place spot in the inshore division. Dustin Service of Navarre has first place with a 6.2-pounder.

Clark Rainwater of Cullman, Alabama, reeled in a 2.6-pound speckled trout for a second place in the inshore category as well. Rainwater was fishing aboard the Dawn Patrol with Capt. John Tenore.

Carl Moore of Crestview found an open spot on the leaderboard and filled it on Thursday. The Jack Crevalle category in the Pier, Bridge, Jetty and Surf Division was wide open. But not any more, Moore weighed in a 1.2-pounder he caught off the Okaloosa Island Pier.

About 5 o’clock, Capt. Kent Hardin, who loves to mackerel fish, brought in a 52.8-pound king mackerel while fishing aboard his boat What Doin?

His catch took over first place in the Senior Division, second in the AJ’s King Mackerel Bonus Award, and first place for the Big Mac Daily Award.

“That’s the biggest one since 1992 in the rodeo that I’ve caught,” said the 68-year-old Hardin. “He was a classic smoker. He took off twice, and then he went down.

“We backed up on him until he stopped running,” he said, noting the mackerel about spooled him.

Altogether it took Hardin about 28 minutes to get the mackerel in the boat. But it was worth the fight.

“That’s a big deal for me,” said Hardin.

And in Hardin fashion, after he weighs in his fish at the scales he hoists it up over his head — the mackerel dead lift — showing off his catch. And the crowd loved it.

Not bad for a senior citizen that weighs only 120 pounds himself to lift a 52-pound fish over his head.

Right before 7 p.m. the party boat Destin Princess with Capt. Reid Phillips at the helm came in with a couple of fish that made the big board as well.

Gordon Shepherd of Georgia was one of those anglers. He pulled in a 9.2-pound Atlantic sharpnose shark for a first place spot.

Doug Haskell of Minnesota, a snowbird regular, weighed in a 16-pound red grouper for second place on the board.

There are only two more days left, but that’s still plenty of time for you to try and get on that leaderboard. The scales are open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

See you on the docks.