RODEO REWIND: Remembering the days when a big fish could win you a spot of land in Destin (PHOTOS)


Captain Howard Marler holds a dolphin on his charter boat Mystery in 1958. The boat participated in that first rodeo in 1948.

Special to The Log
Published: Friday, September 27, 2013 at 05:09 PM.

Everyone who relies on the fishing industry owes a lot to the Destin Fishing Rodeo and the men who started the event 65 years ago. Some can even thank the month-long event for prizes unthinkable by today's standards.

Captain Robert Hanshaw, of the Miss Aegina, and his family are part of that smaller group. A common prize offered during the first few years after the rodeo's 1948 founding was the deed to property in Destin. When one early winner didn't want the plot of land he'd won on Mountain Drive, Hanshaw's father Hank jumped at the opportunity.

"He said, 'I don't want a bunch of sand spurs.' My dad said, 'I'll give you $200 for it.' He sold it to him, and that's how we got our first piece of property, off a guy who won it in the rodeo," Hanshaw told The Log.

Other prizes, all donated by local businesses, ranged from fishing lures to household appliances. In the inaugural rodeo, only one king mackerel was caught the entire competition, by a woman from Mississippi on Capt. Howard Marler's boat, Mystery. For winning the king mackerel competition, the woman won a brand-new stove, refrigerator and kitchen sink.

"She said it cost her almost as much to get the prizes up to Mississippi than it would if she had bought them herself," Marler wrote in a "Lines & Leisure" column in 1990.

The largest triggerfish in 1951 won the lucky angler $25, one windshield wiper, and 12 cans of beer.

Today, the Destin Fishing Rodeo provides far more than just cash and material prizes for the winners, though. Its most important function is keeping the charter fishing industry in business after Labor Day passes and the traditional tourist season ends. That wasn't always the case, though.

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