Destin Fishing Rodeo moving forward and outward on 66th birthday

TINA HARBUCK
It took several folks to haul the huge bull shark across the deck to the Rodeo scales during last year’s event. Dustin Goff, bringing up the tail, was the angler who hauled in the 239.4-pound shark on the Golf Wave. Shark will be a regular site at this year's Rodeo with 73 prizes available throughout the month.

Despite fish closures, the Destin Fishing Rodeo is moving forward and upward in its 66th year to "hang 'em high" throughout the month of October on the docks behind AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar.

"We've gotten used to bouncing back from fish closures," said Helen Donaldson executive director for the Rodeo.

Last year the Rodeo had red snapper and triggerfish in the lineup of possible species, however, this year those fisheries will be closed during October.

But the Rodeo is moving forward.

"We've moved around some things and enhanced some of the divisions for the fish that we know we can catch," Donaldson said.

One of those species that is high on the list is the king mackerel.

Weighmaster Bruce Cheves coined the phrase "holy mackerel" a few years ago for king mackerel weighed in on Sundays.

The Rodeo board is taking that and moving forward with it, tagging a division "Holy Mackerel Sundays."

In this division, the largest king mackerel caught aboard a registered charter or party boat will have a chance to win prize money each week on Sunday. The angler will receive $500 for the mackerel, while the captain will win $300 and the mate $200.

"This is an opportunity for the angler, mate and captain to win cash each week … and that's a good thing," Donaldson said.

Another species that will "hang high" each and every day at the Rodeo is the shark.

"For the first time ever, we've added shark to the daily awards," she said.

There will be a first and second place for each for hire category (charter, party boat and charter 25 and under) in the Shark Division. Anglers will have a chance to snag one of 11 shark species that are eligible in the for-hire Shark Division.

The Shark Division is in addition to Shark Saturdays where the largest legal specie of shark brought to the weigh scales on ever Saturday in October will be awarded a $250 cash prize.

"We'll have 73 opportunities to give prizes for shark this year," Donaldson said.

Beyond the fish, the Rodeo is moving forward and outward this year with its advertising.

"We're advertising all over the world," she said.

Just recently the Rodeo posted on its Facebook page, the new 30 second commercial for the Rodeo.

"It got 25,000 hits in just the first two days," Donaldson said.

In addition to the TV commercials, the Rodeo is advertising in various syndicated magazines.

"We're reaching out and trying to spread the word about the Rodeo," she said.

Plus the Rodeo book is being distributed everywhere to such places as Birmingham, Atlanta, Nashville, Houston and Dallas.

This distribution is great for our advertisers and division sponsors.

Resort Quest is the official accommodations sponsor for the Rodeo and "Ocean Reef stepped up in a big way to sponsor awards," Donaldson said.

"We have a bunch of new sponsors this year and it's so wonderful to see the community come together and sponsor these events," she said.

And it's because of the sponsors for the books, distribution and prizes that the Rodeo can continue to move forward and hang 'em high.

RODEO RUNDOWN

• Sept. 27: Kid's Kick-Off and Wagon Boat Parade, 2-4 p.m. at AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar.

• Sept. 30: Captain and Mate meeting, 4 p.m. at AJ's.

• Sept. 30: Rock the Dock Kick Off Party, 6 p.m. at AJ's with recording artist Tobacco Road Band.

• Oct. 1-31: 66th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo. Weigh-ins daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

• Oct. 5: Destin 5K Rodeo Run at Clement Taylor Park.

• Oct. 18: Rootin Tootin Rodeo Round-Up, 8 to 11 a.m. at Okaloosa Island Pier

• Nov. 6: Rodeo Awards, 5:30 p.m. at AJ's.