The 71st Destin Fishing Rodeo kicks off Oct. 1. Scales open at 10 a.m.
Boats are registered and the leaderboard is up. All that is needed now is fishermen with fish.
Tuesday marks the start of Destin’s longest running tradition, the 71st edition of the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
Scales open at 10 a.m. Oct. 1 on the barge located behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar along Destin harbor. And most likely there will be someone already waiting at the scales with a fish in a bucket or a boat pulled up to the barge with a fish ready to weigh in for bragging rights of being the first.
“A 420-pound Warsaw is what I would like to see,” said Destin Rodeo executive director Helen Donaldson. “But most likely, it will be a redfish or a trout caught on a 25-foot and under charter boat. Or it could be a walk up … we’ll see.”
Last year, 11-year-old Connor Yeric of Kentucky, fishing aboard Destin Inshore Guides with Capt. Josh Calhoon, weighed in the first fish of the Rodeo, a 6-pound redfish.
Tuesday is just the start of a month filled with competition, fun, family, friends and of course fish.
With calls still coming in Thursday, 83 charter boats and 54 private vessels had registered.
“Those numbers are probably right on track with last year's,” Donaldson said, noting she anticipates the private boat entries to double by the weekend following the captains party.
Not only are the boats getting registered, but they are also getting booked for trips.
“I’m booked the first through the 14th,” said Capt. Brady Bowman of the Bow’d Up, and a past Captains Award winner.
He said his trips are anywhere from 8 hours to 18-hour trips with a lot of repeat customers.
Plus Bowman said he has a few newbie’s that want to try their luck at Rodeo fishing.
“Everybody wants to try and catch a big one … but we fish for whatever. We just go fishing,” he said.
Capt. Scott Robson of the Phoenix, who’s fished the Rodeo for the past 43 years, said his October is looking good.
“I’ve got quite a few at the beginning, but quite a few trips all through the month,” Robson said.
And the fishing should be good.
“The king mackerel are here and showing up good,” Robson said.
“The mackerel fishing is the best we’ve seen in a while,” added Capt. Kyle Lowe of the Special K. “The amberjack started slow but its gotten better … I expect it to be good fishing."
Last year, the winning king mackerel was a 64.2-pounder brought in on the Dawn Patrol with Capt. John Tenore, and the largest amberjack was an 83.6-pounder pulled in by Destin’s Casey Veach.
Mackerel and amberjack are just a couple of the divisions on the leaderboard. As a matter of fact, there is a division for almost every species of fish, at least the ones that are eligible to keep due to regulations.
There are daily prizes and month-long prizes for the biggest fish brought in throughout the month.
This year the Rodeo has a Largest Fish of the Day division.
In years past, there has been a largest fish for certain species for big boats and small boats. This year, it doesn’t matter the size of the boat. The only thing that matters is the size of the fish.
The angler who weighs in the largest Almaco Jack, blackfin tuna, king mackerel, red grouper, amberjack, grouper, mingo, Spanish mackerel, black snapper, scamp, redfish and wahoo will receive a merchandise voucher to be used anytime throughout the month. There will also be a ladies largest and juniors largest catch of the day.
Shark and rays are not included in the daily awards.
However, the shark has a place on the leaderboard. There is the Mako My Day shark division for the largest shark of the tournament and then there is Shark Saturdays where the largest shark brought in on Saturday wins a cash prize of $250 plus a trophy.
“We’re ready to roll … everything is good,” Donaldson said. “The folks at AJ’s have got us set up. They work diligently to make it happen and we’re right back in business … although we’re in business all year long.”
If you want to catch a glimpse of the big one, the Rodeo scales are open daily throughout the month from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. on the docks behind AJ’s.