Anglers back in the saddle for Rodeo

Tina Harbuck
Brian Lowe of Tennessee took over top honors in the Amberjack Division with a 78.6-pound amberjack caught on the Swoop II with Capt. Matt Wheeler. Also pictured is Miss Destin Ellen Brown. [FOR REEL PHOTOS/CONTRIBUTED PHOTO]

Just two days after Hurricane Michael barreled through the Panhandle, anglers were back on the boats and reeling in fish in the 70th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.

“All in all we’re back in the swing of things, and things are going good,” said Rodeo chairman John Brashears.

The scales opened up on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar on Friday with 37 fish entries written up.

Saturday was the big day with 53 fish entries.

Out of those 53, there were some big fish to hit the scales.

Dustin Fasole of Alabama weighed in a 24.6-pound blackfin tuna he caught while fishing with Capt. Phillip Blackburn on the Backdown 2.

Lauren McKee of Mississippi reeled in a 47.6-pound grouper while fishing with Capt. Mike Graef on the Huntress for a spot on the leaderboard.

But the biggest fish of the day was a 78.6-pound amberjack on the Swoop II with Capt. Matt Wheeler. Brian Lowe of Tennessee pulled in the huge jack, the biggest thus far in the Rodeo.

On Day 14 of the Rodeo, which was Sunday, 29 fish hit the scales.

Again there were a couple of nice fish in that mix. Bob Ritz of Georgia weighed in a 57-pound amberjack he caught on the 100 Proof with Capt. Allen Staples.

Trey Brown of Destin pulled in a 25.4-pound blackfin tuna aboard the Loose HookR for a spot on the board.

As of about 2 p.m. on Monday, the number of entries was up to 559.

So it appears the fishing is still good.

When a storm blows through there is always the question, “Will it move fish in or move fish away?”

“It’s kind of hard to tell,” said Capt. Jim Green of the party boat New Florida Girl’s American Spirit.

Green has been out two or three times since the hurricane blew through.

On Sunday he said the fish seemed to be scattered with no big concentrations in one area.

“It seems to have just pushed the fish around, but didn’t take any away,” Green said.

“Everything we keep tabs on … we can pretty much throw those notes away,” he added, noting the fish are not on their usual spots.

“It’s like musical chairs,” Green said.

Either way, folks are back fishing. And if you don’t have a line in the water you don’t have a chance.

Just remember the Rodeo scales are open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. daily on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

See you on the docks.