Every Day's a Rodeo: An Interview with Destin's Captain Mike Whitley

Studying Time: 8 minutes

It’s October, and in case you’re fortunate sufficient to search out your self in Destin, Florida proper about now, which means one factor solely: it’s Destin Fishing Rodeo time.

Every autumn, the colourful group of Destin totally transforms itself right into a go-to supply for fishing aficionados nationwide, with the now-infamous Destin Fishing Rodeo attracting greater than 35,000 anglers a yr.

It’s the occasion native constitution captains dwell and fish for, so calling them busy right now would clearly be an understatement. And coming from a metropolis with the biggest constitution fleet in the entire of the Sunshine State, that claims rather a lot.

Fortunate for us, we visited Destin again in September, incomes ourselves the pleasure of sitting down with Mike Whitley, Captain of Pescador III, for nearly 2 full hours – the identical period of time I assume he now spends sleeping per week.

Nonetheless, it’s arduous to think about Captain Whitley having an excessive amount of of an issue with that. Upon retiring from service after 11 years and a tour in Iraq, Mike wasted no time turning considered one of his childhood passions right into a full-time occupation.

And though he doesn’t get to try this a lot fishing himself anymore, he says that being a conduit for a whole bunch of first-time catches, household fishing excursions and lifelong reminiscences now brings him simply as a lot pleasure.

How lengthy have you ever been within the fishing constitution enterprise?

I’ve had the boat for 9 years now, and have been operating fishing journeys for six. I began fishing as a child, proper right here within the Gulf, and have been hooked on it ever since.

Your boat, Pescador III, is such a phenomenal vessel. What’s its capability?

My boat can take as much as 16 individuals. Now, naturally, not all of them might be able to fish on the similar time on a regular basis, however I all the time inform my prospects “in case you come on right here, it is a fishing boat”. All people has to fish earlier than we return.

And sure, I’ve had folks that didn’t wish to fish. I had two women specifically final yr, on two totally different journeys, that didn’t even wish to come. Their children form of strong-armed them into it. After which, as soon as they began fishing, you couldn’t cease them. They only liked it a lot they by no means put the rod down.

What sort of fishing journeys do you usually run?

We primarily do backside fishing: going after Snappers and Groupers is most typical, however we may even run Mackerel, Tuna, and Wahoo journeys if the time is true. Backside fishing is what most individuals search for in these waters, although.

Due to the fish rely?

That’s a part of the rationale. But in addition, in case you’re coming together with children, or it’s a big group and so they don’t actually know what sort of fishing they wish to do, more often than not I’ll suggest backside fishing – except the Mackerel’s biting very well. Trolling for Mackerel generally is a bit boring for some individuals, particularly if the fish simply isn’t biting. You set, say, 4 strains within the water, and also you wait.

Backside fishing, alternatively – even when they’re not all keepers, extra individuals get to fish with a rod of their hand on the similar time, and truly catch that fish. It might be baitfish, it could be some sort of Snapper, Grouper, Triggerfish. Perhaps its one thing you must throw again, however at the very least they’re all catching fish and having enjoyable. Backside fish additionally appears to style higher to individuals, although we do have a variety of Mackerel lovers too.

Destin can also be an excellent vacation spot for attempting varied varieties of specialty fishing journeys. For instance, Cobia fishing is fairly widespread within the space?

Cobia are an excellent fish to catch. They appear like Sharks, and have actually good meat. They’re massive fish too, in extra of 100 lb. These are what we do sight fishing for. Many towers that you just see on the native charters – these tuna towers – plenty of individuals right here use it for Cobia sight fishing as a substitute!

The idea behind Cobia fishing is that, within the spring, they are going to migrate by right here, heading as much as Mississippi the place they’ll spawn. Whereas right here, they’ll keep proper alongside the shore – more often than not – in shallow water. And so they’re actually enjoyable to catch – primarily on Eel, which is like sweet for them. So that you’ll see guides operating actual gradual across the seashore, simply trying. You wait till you see the fish swimming on the floor, and you then forged. Individuals will even cost additional for that, because it’s specialty fishing. For locals, it’s one of many favourite fish to catch.

How does Destin stack up towards different Florida hotspots? We’re about to move all the way down to Key West for an offshore journey. Any ideas?

Benefit of fishing down there may be it actually doesn’t take lengthy earlier than you get to prime waters, as a result of the Gulf stream comes so shut there. You possibly can trip out for a couple of minutes and also you’re already in prime waters. Identical factor right here – our waters get deeper a lot faster in comparison with different locations in Florida. In some spots – like Panama Metropolis – water will increase a foot in depth for each mile you go. Right here, I could be in 200+ft of water about 20 miles out.

We’ve had many individuals that e book fishing journeys by way of FishingBooker ask what occurs if it rains. What’s the MO right here?

Sure, we get requested that on a regular basis too. I all the time inform individuals, , if it’s not tough, we’ll fish within the rain. Why not? The fish don’t care – they’re already moist! For essentially the most half, except there’s a severe stress change, they don’t even know the distinction. And if there’s an enormous stress change with an enormous storm coming, generally the fish will even chew higher earlier than and in the course of the storm. In fact, if there are heavy winds and tough climate, we simply received’t exit. Security comes first.

Talking of outdoor results on fishing, what are your ideas on the affect of moon phases on fishing? Any reality there?

For many of our fish, we don’t see a big impact of it. Typically you’ll see a little bit of a pull, however nothing substantial. What we see extra generally by way of the moon’s affect is normally restricted to floor fish: your Mackerels, your Wahoos or Mahis. Across the full moon, because it lights up the water at evening, they’ll see the bait extra clearly, in order that they’ll eat extra in the course of the evening. So whenever you go fishing within the morning, it’s usually more durable to catch them consequently, as a result of they’re already full! They’ve been consuming all evening, in order that they’ll in all probability begin consuming once more later within the day. That’s the most important change that we see. There could be some impact on the underside fish as nicely, however I feel that’s acquired extra to do with the gravitational pull, merely inflicting the fish to chew humorous.

Inquiries about captains’ catch insurance policies are very frequent as nicely. Your ideas on catch and launch?

We do a variety of C&R. It does rely upon the species, although. I don’t thoughts catch and launch in any respect. In the event you’re not gonna eat it, in case you don’t wish to take the meals dwelling, then I really feel it’s higher to simply launch the fish. Kill what you wish to eat, positive. For instance, I’ve come again this one time, years in the past, with virtually 300 kilos of fish. We go to wash all of it up, and the oldsters solely wished a couple of bag of fish. Which is okay, however I want these issues are communicated earlier, earlier than I kill all this fish.

And there are particular fish that we have now to launch: your Pink Snappers, Triggerfish, Groupers, Amberjacks, Marlin and many others. And it’s a part of the game of fishing actually, to simply go on the market and have enjoyable. I’ve had individuals inform me “We don’t need preserve any fish. We simply wish to come out and have a superb time.”

Do the C&R laws appear to be altering usually?

Rules are consistently altering with reference to which fish we will preserve and which we will’t. Many fish that individuals need, for instance, we now can’t preserve, so we’re caught on this everlasting battle with the authorities on that problem.

Goliath Grouper have been on the C&R record for a very long time now. Ever caught one?

There’s probably not a variety of these round right here anymore. A couple of, however not rather a lot. And sure, they’re additionally protected. I don’t know in case you’ve seen that video not too long ago, of a Goliath consuming that Shark in a single chew – and that was a 4-foot Shark! May’ve simply been an individual.

Seen it – that was unbelievable! What’s the most important fish you ever caught your self?

Aside from Sharks, the most important one was in all probability Yellowfin Tuna, about 85 lb. Not unhealthy for a superb, edible fish. I’ve additionally had Hammerheads, some so long as 10-12 toes.

Any of your favourite fishing journey tales you don’t thoughts sharing?

Positive, a few them didn’t even contain catching fish. We did a Tuna journey to the rigs just a few years again, and on our means over we noticed 3 humpback whales, which in itself is fairly wild for me, as I’ve by no means seen them earlier than. After which the second whale swam virtually proper as much as our boat, earlier than diving underneath. Good factor I introduced my digicam! After which that turned out to be a exceptional fishing journey as nicely. We acquired to the rigs, and in about 3 hours, we’ve had 13 Yellowfin Tuna, and about 22 Blackfins. Most likely had about 400-500 lb of fish caught in that 3-hour window. We even reduce the journey brief after that.

One other nice story occurred years in the past, when these Amberjack laws have been a bit totally different. The Jacks have been 28 inches to maintain, now they’re 30. We had a brief Amberjack that we caught and launched sooner or later – about 26-27 inches lengthy. We threw it again within the water, and as we watched him swim off, a dolphin got here up and grabbed him.

That’s not the most effective half although – one other dolphin got here up beside him, and so the primary one slings it over – tosses this 27″ Amberjack to the opposite dolphin. He catches it, after which they simply begin taking part in pitch and catch with this fish, they preserve tossing him backwards and forwards. And this was nicely earlier than issues began going viral! You simply by no means know what you’re going to come back throughout in these waters.

That’s superb! How usually do you get to go fishing your self these days?

Yeah, we don’t get to truly fish as a lot anymore. Actually, very seldom do I actually get to fish today. I’m taking different individuals fishing, that’s my most important job. I get my pleasure from watching these children, or women or guys catch fish for the primary time, or their largest fish ever. That’s my new means of getting pleasure from fishing, and it feels nice.

One final query: You additionally supply navy reductions?

That’s proper. I used to be within the military for 11 years, on lively obligation. I served in Iraq and was in Nationwide Guard earlier than that as nicely. Anyone former or lively navy – all of them get a reduction with me. If sooner or later you’ve served your nation, and also you’ve put your life on the road – I do know what these guys have been by, so giving them a reduction and taking them fishing with me – that’s the least I can do.

To search out out extra about Captain Whitley or to e book a visit with Pescador III, try his profile. within the Destin Fishing Rodeo? head over to our devoted event web page. Bought any questions for Captain Mike? Tell us within the feedback under!

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