Destin Fishing Rodeo numbers are up all the way around

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Neither a hurricane nor a pandemic have been able to slow the 72nd annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, and proof is in the numbers.

"The Rodeo continues to amaze us," said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo. 

"We've weighed more fish and had more boats registered than last year and we continue to have boats register every day ... already had two today," she added Friday morning, with only a week left to fish.

Looking back at the Rodeo log books, at close of day on Oct. 25, 2019, the Rodeo had weighed and written up 949 fish entries. This year, at close of day on the 25th, the number of entries recorded was 1,030.

Destin Fishing Rodeo weighmaster Bruce Cheves talks to the crowd about the 110-pound yellowfin tuna brought to the scales Sunday afternoon. The tuna was caught aboard the Al-Lin with Capt. Harold Staples.

As for boat registrations, 109 charter boats have registered and 157 private boats. That's not including the 50 anglers registered in the pier, bridge, jetty and surf division, or those who have registered to fish off their kayaks or paddleboards.

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The crew aboard the private boat Piper Fallon haul out a wahoo at the Destin Fishing Rodeo on Sunday. The wahoo weighed in at 45.8-pounds and moved into second place  on the leaderboard.

What are the fishermen catching?

King mackerel has been king of the Rodeo with weighmaster Bruce Cheves calling "time is" on 143 king mackerel during the first 25 days of the tournament. The largest king on the leaderboard at the end of Day 25 was a 57.8 pounder caught by Rhett Thibodeaux of Destin aboard the Lambert Electric with Capt. Doug Lambert.

Rhett Thibodeaux of Destin weighed in a 57.8-pound king mackerel on Oct. 24 to take over first place on the leaderboard of the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Wishing him well is Miss Destin Lauren Adams.

More:Rachel Staples paddles up for a spot on the leaderboard

At close of day Oct. 25, the charter boat Bow'd Up had the largest king mackerel caught by a junior angler, 36.2 pounds, and the largest by a woman, 48.4 pounds.

The No. 2 fish brought to the scales has been amberjack with 97 entries followed by triggerfish at 96 and blackfin tuna at 83. 

Aaron Owen of Oklahoma shows off a king mackerel he caught while fishing aboard the Phoenix with Capt. Scott Robson on Oct. 23.

Not only have the number of fish entries been up, but Rodeo merchandise sales are up as well.

"When the Destin Seafood Festival was canceled this year, we automatically reduced our T-shirt order in half, because we generally sell half of our stock that weekend. Who knew that we would have a better sales weekend during a pandemic than we had in the 2019 Seafood Festival? We ordered more shirts, they came in and sold three days later," Donaldson said.

"It's good for the Rodeo, but I know a lot of our regular customers who didn’t get their shirts at the beginning of the month are disappointed. All we can do for them now is say wait 'til the spring for the 2021s," she said.

The Rodeo merchandise trailer located near the Jumbotron at AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar is open with limited pieces of Rodeo wear still available.

The Rodeo wraps up Oct. 31 on the docks behind AJ's. Until then, the scales will be open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.