Gary Parsons of Niceville recalls a memorable day aboard the Lynnwood when they landed four sailfish in 1964.
Here’s his story as it relates to a photo in the "Fifty Years of Fishing the Destin Fishing Rodeo" book.
“I was mate on Capt. Cecil Woodward's Lynnwood when we landed four sails on 26 Sept. 1964. I dropped out of college to help Cecil start a new business venture in offshore fishing and in a brand new boat that had yet to have her named painted on the stern. We ran 30 offshore trips that year finding blue and white marlin and numerous sail. We caught 30 bill fish and tagged and released most using a tagging kit I ordered from Woods Hole. Didn't realize the species then but had a great white shark take half a blue marlin in single bite.
“Cecil was a pioneer. He and Buddy Gentry's dad designed a new juniper-built sport fisherman that could be built at local boat yards.
“On the day of the catch, it was very rough but we found sails feeding on balled bait schools at the southwest edge. In landing one of the sails the hook penetrated my glove and stuck in my hand just as the leader broke so I was hooked to a fish still in the water. Lucky for me the hook pulled out of my hand but stayed hooked to the glove so I was able to pull the fish on board. All of the fish we landed that day were mounted and I have the names of the anglers. A few days later we took our families out and caught, tagged and released four more sails.
“Tragically, those days are gone. Sailfish and white marlin along with the once very numerous oceanic white tipped sharks are very rare now in the northern gulf. We caught all our fish inside of 100 fathoms.
“The dean at the University of Florida let me finish my degree with a correspondence course in Spanish, which I completed after the fishing season ended in November. The delay cost me an ROTC commission and with an expectant wife and no income things were looking pretty desperate. Fortunately some customers of Cecil's came through and I got a full time job on Eglin's chemical/biological laboratory operated by Vitro Services. Later I was hired by the Air Force Research Lab, retiring in 2000. I will never forget the year I took off to go fish for the big ones.”