Rodeo has officially begun to feel like the Rodeo

Tina Harbuck

After nine days of rough seas and even a hurricane in the mix, the 69th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo is finally starting to feel like the Rodeo.

Tuesday, which was Day 10, had the feel of opening day with a steady flow of boats coming in throughout the day and then even backing up waiting to weigh in fish late in the day. As matter of fact, Tuesday was the first day we went past 7 p.m. weighing fish. It was hectic as always, but it felt good at the same time to finally get rolling with the fish and of course the crowds.

And it’s pretty much been that way the rest of the week with the number of entries by close of day Thursday at 384.

But not only have the number of fish to go on the scales increased, but so have the size of the fish.

Joni Foster of Destin got the day rolling early on Tuesday with a hefty 40.2-pound king mackerel caught on the Big Boy with Capt. Greg Haeusler. The catch moved to the top of the leaderboard in the Private Boat Division.

Not long after Capt. Billy Sexton on the SS Mullett came in with a pair of king mackerel at 28.8 and 22.8 pounds to take over first and second in the 25-foot and Under Private Boat Division. Amanda Bell, who was also aboard, weighed in a 33.4-pound king, for first place in the Ladies Division.

Even the Odd Ball Division of the Rodeo had a big fish take over on the board. Terry Lea of Oklahoma pulled in a 15-pound African pompano while fishing aboard the Maxiumus for a first place spot. The Odd Ball Division is just that, it’s for those odd ball fish that folks catch that do not have a usual spot on the leader board.

Capt. Brantley Galloway on the Full Draw came in just after 4 p.m. on Tuesday with a 20-pound Almaco Jack for a first place spot on the board. Billy Rotenberry of Mississippi was the angler on the rod.

Next up was the Seahorse with Capt. Dean Cox at the helm. They came in with a 29.4-pound king mackerel caught by Bob Rupell of North Carolina. Now that might not be a huge mackerel, but it is for an 84-year old. Anyhow, his catch put him in first place in The Destin Log Senior Division.

The Huntress with Capt. Mike Graef came in right before 5 p.m. with a couple of good fish to get on the board. Dawn Hoback of Ohio weighed in a 14-pound grouper and Bill Danishek, also of Ohio, made it on the leaderboard with a 17.4-pound red grouper.

We had several boats in between, but Capt. Robert Hill on the Twilight came in from an extended voyage with a couple of fish that made the board. Chuck Porty of Tennessee weighed in a 35.2-pound grouper for a first place spot and Ami Pierce of Arkansas with a 24.6-pound grouper for second in the Extended Voyage Division.

It’s been a grouper kind of week with several of the boats able to get out for those deep drops for them.

Michael Lee on the Team Whaler with Capt. Charlie Morekis got in on some of that grouper action with a 14.2 pounder. His catch was good for a first place in the 25-foot and Under Private Boat Division.

Capt. Cliff Cox on the party boat Sweet Jody even had grouper. Willie Beedle of Georgia weighed in a 19.6-pound red grouper for a first place spot in the Party Boat Division.

However, the biggest grouper of the day and of the Rodeo as of close Thursday was brought in right before 7 p.m. Tuesday aboard the Big John.

Capt. Todd Allen, who likes to go after those huge grouper, didn’t disappoint on Tuesday as they hauled a 54.8-pound grouper out of the fish box. Tom Hoepfl of Shalimar was the angler that reeled in the fish. As big as the fish was, Capt. Allen said it didn’t take but about 10 minutes to reel in the grouper.

The Big John also took over the top spot in the Cobia Division with a 35 pounder caught by Russell McVay of Fort Walton Beach.

Wednesday was another big day with the Sea Winder hauling in a 35.4-pound grouper for second on the board. Dave Zerbst of Tennessee was the angler.

The SS Mullett came in again with a big king mackerel, mingo and blackfin tuna.

And the One More with Capt. Ken Blackman backed in with a lady from across the ocean, Peridot Dunning of England weighed in a pair of dolphin for a spot on the board. To say she was excited is putting it mildly as she was ecstatic just to be able to weigh the fish and be in Destin.

Thursday was just as exciting with more big king mackerel, grouper and even a hammerhead shark with a face painted on it.

When it’s the Rodeo, you just never know what’s going to come in. But you too can see the action first hand. The scales are open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar throughout the month of October.

See you at the scales.