Long trips, big catches

Anglers find big success in overnight excursions

Tina Harbuck

If you’re looking to haul in some big fish and you’ve got the time, an extended fishing trip may be the way to go.

It certainly paid off the fishermen aboard the Lady Em and Twilight who came in from overnighters on Thursday at the 70th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Between the two boats, they filled up 15 of the 20 spots available on the leaderboard in the Extended Voyage Division.

The Lady Em with Capt. Mike Eller at the helm came in from a three-day trip with a shopping list of fish to be weighed, which numbered up to 15.

Among the largest was a 145.2-pound swordfish caught by Daniel Werncke of New Albany, Indiana.

“It was awesome,” Werncke said. “We had just woken up and they gave a yell for an angler and I was the first one to get to it. I was just lucky.”

After tugging and reeling, it took Werncke about 45 minutes to get the swordfish up to the boat.

“My arms felt pretty good afterward. … It was a pretty good workout,” Werncke said.

Eller said they had been fishing to the southeast of Destin and were targeting grouper and swordfish.

“Really we looked at what had been weighed in on the extended voyage and anything that was open, we tried to fill that niche,” Eller said.

They pulled in almost two of everything. They had two king mackerel, two dolphin, two Almaco Jack, two amberjack, two grouper, plus a 30.6-pound snowy grouper and a 16.2-pound barrel grouper, which both went into the Deep Drop Division.

“These guys have done a bunch of three day trips out of Destin … they are good anglers,” Eller said of the group from Kentucky and Indiana.

As for the swordfish, Eller said they also went two-for-two on them as well.

“We had the first one on within 10 minutes after stopping and trying,” he said. It was small so they released it.

The last one, and the one that counted, was right at daylight.

“It was good fishing, but it was rough going out," Eller said. "We got our asses kicked, but they hung in there.”

About four hours later, Capt. Robert Hill and his group aboard the Twilight came in from an overnighter with some mighty big fish as well that made it onto the leaderboard.

Hutch Hutchison of Georgia weighed in three fish for spots on the board. He had a 41.8-pound grouper for a first, 19-pound Almaco Jack for a first, and a 104.6-pound yellowfin tuna for a second place spot.

Hutchison said the tuna by far put up a bigger fight, noting it took about 30 minutes to reel in as opposed to the 10 to 12 minutes on the grouper.

Once you get the grouper out of the hole, “it comes on up,” Hutchison said.

This was Hill’s second overnight trip thus far in the Rodeo. Earlier in the week they came in from an overnighter with a couple of big yellowfins and a couple of scamp. His largest tuna was 112.4 pounder pulled in by Alan Crawford of Mary Esther. The two scamp, 18 and 16.2 pounds, hold first and second on the board.

As of Friday morning, the only open slots in the Extended Voyage division of the Rodeo were first and second red grouper, second place wahoo, and first and second big eye tuna.

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The Fishing Report with The Ships Chandler and Tina Harbuck