Just when it looked like red snapper were totally out of the picture for the 64th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, they are back on the table — at least for the last weekend of the October tournament.

NOAA in conjunction with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission is giving the rodeo 400 tags for red snapper to be used during Oct. 27-28.
“This is purely for research and by-catch,” said John Brashears, rodeo board member.

All boat captains that are registered in the rodeo will have a shot at getting their hands on at least four tags. The tags will be grouped in fours and put in a packet along with FWC forms that will need to be filled out prior to bringing their fish to the docks.

The cost for a chance at a packet with four tags is $40. Rodeo registered captains have until 5 p.m. Oct. 24 to purchase a ticket for a chance on the tags. The tickets will go into a lottery and the drawing will take place at 6 p.m. on Oct. 24.

“The captains can buy as many chances as they want, but they can only win one packet,” said Rodeo Executive Director Helen Donaldson. And anglers are only allowed to catch one snapper each.

The results of the drawing will be made available on the rodeo website the evening of Oct. 24.

Although the red snapper will not be part of the rodeo competition for prizes, they will be processed by the FWC. The FWC will have four people on hand to do sampling and weigh the snapper on the docks near the rodeo scales. And anglers will get to keep their fish.

“This is a nice little bonus for our customers,” said Capt. Mike Eller of the Lady Em. “We’ve never done anything like this.”

In addition to having the bonus of catching a snapper, Eller said, “It will also let us explore how well the fish tags are used among the fishermen.”

Proceeds from the lottery drawing will be divided between the Destin Fishing Rodeo and the Destin Charter Boat Association.