October is just around the corner, and you can feel the excitement building along the Destin Boardwalk as charter boat captains prepare for the 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, a month long fishing tournament that draws over 30,000 visitors to Destin each year to compete for over $100,000 in prizes.
But the Rodeo, to many, including myself, is more than just a fishing tournament. It’s a historical event honoring the fishing heritage of our city that we have the opportunity to celebrate each year. Although Destin may be known foremost for its beautiful beaches, it is just a fishing village at heart, and at no time does that become more apparent than during the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
The Destin Fishing Rodeo began in 1948 as a way to draw visitors to the Emerald Coast. Prizes were donated by local businesses and included kitchen appliances, windshield wipers, and even beer. As the Rodeo grew, the prizes grew, and one year they even gave away a parcel of land in Destin, valued at $500! Although they no longer give away kitchen appliances, beer, or land (wouldn’t THAT be nice?!), the prize package still includes an impressive array of donations from local businesses, including fishing rods and reels, fishing trips, vacation stays, and, of course, cash. It is said that Destin was named the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village, not only because of its proximity to deepwater access and plentiful supply of fish, but due to the prize packages in its Fishing Rodeo!
Entry to the Destin Fishing Rodeo is free to anglers fishing aboard a boat registered in the Rodeo and we are proud to have the only rental boat registered in the tournament’s 65 year history, as well as our own charter boat participating in the Rodeo this year! In addition, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has just approved a 21-day red snapper season in state waters beginning on the first day of the Rodeo, on October 1st, and the National Marine Fisheries Service has also approved a 14-day red snapper season in federal waters, from October 1-14th. We are very excited to be able to add red snapper back to the catch list this year, and for the first time in years, we will be able to fish for amberjack, red snapper, grouper, and triggerfish all during the Rodeo! Not to worry though, there are prizes for just about every species of fish out there, so whether you’re trolling inshore for King Mackerel, offshore for Marlin and Sailfish, or fishing the deep bottoms for Red Snapper and Grouper, you’ll be in the running for prizes.
Check out these 10 reasons to attend the Destin Fishing Rodeo, courtesy of the Destin Harbor Boardwalk Facebook page!
#1. THE TRADITION. The 65th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo begins Oct 1 with weigh-ins starting at 10a and going until 7p every day during the month of October. You have the opportunity to be part of something that first started in 1948 and continues today as strong, if not stronger, than ever.
#2. THE COMPETITION. Any time a polygraph test is listed in the rules, it’s a serious competition! There should be about 100 charter boats and about 150 private boats entered in this year’s Rodeo so you know the competition will be stiff. Make your plan to come check out how your favorite captain and/or fisherman is doing on the Rodeo Leaderboard. Weigh-ins start at 10a every morning and run until 7p every evening behind AJ’s Seafood & Oyster Bar on the Destin Harbor Boardwalk throughout the month of October.
#3. LADIES DIVISION. That’s right. Lady anglers are so good they have their own division. Here are the Ladies Division categories.
- 1st & 2nd Ladies Adult Triggerfish
- 1st & 2nd Ladies Adult Blackfin Tuna
- 1st & 2nd Ladies Adult Amberjack
- 1st & 2nd Ladies Adult Grouper
- 1st & 2nd Ladies Adult King Mackerel
#4. YOU NEVER KNOW. The Destin Fishing Rodeo’s mantra is “You Bring It Down, We Weigh It” and, therefore, you never know what will turn up on the Boardwalk during the Rodeo. Come see for yourself this year.
#5. THE SEAFOOD FESTIVAL. Hello? The 35th annual Destin Seafood Festival has historically taken place the first weekend of the Rodeo, as will be the case Oct 4-6 this year, so it’s a no-brainer to make it a top reason to take in the Rodeo. The location puts the festival right in the heart of the Rodeo action along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk. According to the Seafood Festival, this event is so much more than a festival, “It is a tribute to the rich history of the Destin Harbor. Activities taking place at the festival include fireworks, arts, crafts, fresh local food, kids’ activities and live music.”
#6. THE VIEW. Come on now, we’re talking about a fishing rodeo along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk, so you know the beautiful view is a top reason to come on down. We’ll save you a seat.
#7. THE FISH. You will see all varieties. Virtually every gamefish is recognized with awards during the Rodeo. Whether you’re trolling inshore for King Mackerel, offshore for Marlin and Sailfish, or fishing the deep bottoms for Red Snapper and Grouper, you’ll be in the running for prizes. What fun!
For a complete listing of this year’s categories, click here: http://bit.ly/16MzLgo
#8. MR. OCTOBER! Weighmaster, Bruce Cheves. He is a Destin Legend working the weigh ins and the crowd. Here’s what Helen Donaldson, Destin Fishing Rodeo Director said about Bruce in a 2011 Destin Log article, “Bruce IS the Rodeo to a lot of people. Hundreds of people come to the weigh-ins everyday in October just to sit and listen to Bruce talk. Don’t get me wrong — they like to see the fish — but mostly they like to see Bruce.”
“You never know what he’s going to say — what angle he’s working on this year or what soapbox he might be presiding from on any particular day, but one thing you can always count on is that if it’s October, Bruce will be at the docks weighing in Rodeo fish waiting to ‘make someone famous!'”
#9. JUST FOR KIDS. It’s about making memories – good times, great memories. Every child who enters a fish in the Rodeo that weighs 1 lb. or more gets a rod and reel and a certificate suitable for framing!
#10. THE BIG ONE. You never know when the Big One will come in. It may be a world record marlin, snapper, or a wahoo…Wahoo! You never know. An 11 ft, 844 lb mako shark was landed in the 2007 Rodeo and here’s a clip from the USA TODAY article covering the catch (http://usat.ly/16Lyzdc/, “Six friends went to a fishing tournament looking to catch some grouper. They caught an 844-pound shark instead!” Come see the Big One or better yet, sign up to be the one that lands the Big One in this year’s Destin Fishing Rodeo!