Destin Fishing Rodeo record amberjack on Strange Brew in 2012
Editor’s Note: The Destin Fishing Rodeo, Destin’s longest-standing tradition, will turn 73 in October. Over the next few weeks, The Log will be revisiting some of the rodeo record-holding fish that are the fish to beat in this year’s tournament.
Rodeo Record – Amberjack, 111.6 lbs
The captain knew there were large fish there, but he wasn’t sure exactly what size.
It was a Wednesday around mid-October from Destin Fishing Rodeo in 2012 when the crew aboard the Strange Brew hooked up a huge yellowtail that is still in Rodeo’s record books today.
“It was a good fishing spot; I remember it well. We were in the smaller boat, ”said Captain Ken Nettles, noting they were on a 24ft Hydra-Sport.
The nettles had fishing spots he had really wanted to hit in October.
“So we kind of got a crew together and decided to head out to sea and fish a little deeper water even though we were in a smaller vessel,” Nettles said.
“I knew there were big jacks sitting there,” he added, noting he was nailed in September by around 70 pounds. “When we got started, I knew it was going to be interesting. “
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Fishing around 40 miles it didn’t take long for things to get interesting.
Mark Underdahl was the rod fisherman who struggled with the amberjack. Nettles has since lost contact with Underdahl and The Log could not reach him for comment.
“He was pulling hard, but we were fishing a drag of about 70 pounds,” Nettles said.
“He was strapped in, locked up… we strapped him to the belt,” he said of Underdahl. “Not to mention the guys who cling to him. The jack did what a jack does, fighting to the boat.
It took Underdahl about half an hour to get the amberjack to the boat.
Nettles said they were using heavy equipment – a 130-pound test leader with a 100-pound mono supported by a 150-pound braid.
“We were using the same type of reel that we would use for the deep drop,” he said.
The nettles must have been circling around to keep the fish off the side of the boat as it climbed.
Once they put the amberjack in the boat, Nettles said they took all the measurements on him, length and girth, and by formula he weighed almost 150 pounds.
The amberjack was 76 inches long and 39 inches in circumference. And it was definitely too big for their fish box.
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“Our biggest concern was that the fish was half out of the box,” he said, noting that there was little they could do except get in.
They had already put three fish in the boat that day and hit a few grouper spots on the way home.
When they arrived at the Rodeo scale, weigher Bruce Cheves hoisted the monster onto the scale for a total weight of 119 pounds. Once the fish was gutted it connected to 111.6 pounds.
Underdahl forced the photographers onto the Rodeo barge and held up the large amberjack as if bending a dumbbell.
The 111.6 lbs broke the record of 106.9 lbs set in 1997 by Robert Copeland of Niceville who fished with Captain John Holley on the Reel Doc.
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Underdahl’s Amberjack was not the only large Amberjack Capt. Nettles brought her to the rodeo scale in 2012.
Bryan Lassiter caught a 90-pounder aboard the Strange Brew on Day 6 of the rodeo at the same location.
Nettles and her crew held first and second in AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar AJ Bonus Award rankings, and first and second in the 25ft and under private boat division.
Plus, they set a rodeo record in the process.
In 2013, Nettles again placed second with a 90 pounds in the AJ Bonus Award.
“I like targeting amberjack… it’s been something since I was a kid,” he said.
Nettles haven’t fished rodeo in recent years due to inconvenient health and “just life” issues.
“Next year I plan to fish. This will be the 10th anniversary (of the fish record)… so we plan to fish for sure.
“I want to come back and do what I love to do,” he said.