Giant fish keep being caught during the popular Destin Fishing Rodeo, as a massive 349-pound Warsaw grouper was hauled to the tournament scales. The immense grouper was caught Oct. 9 by angler Garrett Thorton of Blackshear, Georgia, while fishing aboard the 38-foot charter boat. “Special K” boat, skippered by Capt. Kyle Lowe.
The Destin Log reported the anglers only had a bait on bottom for 15 seconds before the fish hit and the battle began.
“It took 30 minutes to get him to the top, but then it took over an hour to figure out how to get him over the side of the boat. It took all five of us,” Lowe told the Destin Log.
Rough water made their work more difficult, but they said waves eventually helped “wash” the huge grouper into their boat.
Lowe knew where to find the heavyweight Warsaw grouper. He found the fish in August during a bottomfishing trip when something deep kept trying to eat his smaller grouper and pulling their scales off before he boated the lesser fish. Lowe didn’t have heavy enough tackle to try for the big Warsaw then, so decided to leave the fish and try again for it during the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
The plan worked, and the giant grouper took a bait in seconds once dropped down to it on the pinpointed bottom structure Lowe had discovered.
On Oct. 9 they fished inshore for a time as the weather was sour. But the weather improved a bit and Lowe made his move.
“When the weather subsided just a hair, we ran out there,” he told the Destin Log. “We dropped one rod, one bait, and he bit within 15 seconds. I knew it was going to be a good one, but I had no idea it was going to be that big. We had the big tackle, one big rod with brand new line. We did everything to make sure it was right because I knew he was there.”
Incredibly, the giant 349-pound grouper is not a Destin Rodeo record, which was set in 2003 by angler John Harden with a 358.8-pound Warsaw.
The IGFA world record Warsaw weighed a staggering 436-pounds, 12-ounces, caught in Florida’s Gulf of Mexico by angler Steve Haeusler in 1985.
On Oct. 1 Destin Rodeo angler Derrick Dover caught a huge 101-pound wahoo off Destin, which set a wahoo record for the 74th annual Florida event.
“I’ve won the gag grouper division of the rodeo, but this is the biggest for sure,” Lowe said of the 349-pound Warsaw.