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It's a wrap for the 72nd annual Destin Fishing Rodeo

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

The 72nd annual Destin Fishing Rodeo finished strong on Halloween with big fish and big numbers.

The month-long fishing tournament saw more than a dozen fish break onto the leaderboard on the final day as well as a high total of entries for the month.

Weighmaster Bruce Cheves called "time is" on the last catch Saturday at 7:32 p.m. for fish entry 1,150, the fourth largest number of entries in the history of the Rodeo.

"The Rodeo was far more successful than we ever imagined it would be this year," said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo. "The crowds have been crazy big. ... Who knew?

"We've been through a pandemic, two hurricanes, a lot of windy days, and now we're having a full moon," she added.

More:FISH FLASH: Captains and anglers brave rough seas for Rodeo catches

More:Destin Fishing Rodeo shuts down temporarily due to Hurricane Zeta

But all in all, this year's Rodeo has been a success, not only in catches, but in sales. The merchandise trailer sold out of T-shirts, visors, caps and even onesies for the babies. The only thing that was left the last four or five days were Rodeo posters.

Donaldson said Rodeo merchandise has sold out before, but at discounted rates. This year, all the 2020 merchandise went at full price.

The crew of safari animals on the Twilight came in Halloween night at the Destin Fishing Rodeo with some big fish to weigh. They got on the board with a 156.2-pound big eye tuna caught by James Richardson of Texas.

As for the large number of entries, the record was set in 2013 with 1,540 fish written up. The second largest was 2016 with 1,314 entries, and third largest was 2008 with 1,182.

Helping to raise those numbers this year were a couple of big eye tuna that came in on  extended voyage trips Saturday that wowed the massive crowd gathered on the docks. Capt. Robert Hill and his crew of anglers, who dressed as safari animals on the Twilight for Halloween, hauled in a 156.2-pound big eye tuna for first place.

More:FISH FLASH: Fish still hitting the scales and getting on the big board

Not long after, Capt. Jason Hallmark and his anglers on the Sea Fix hauled out a big eye tuna that weighed 155.2 pounds for second place. The Sea Fix also had a 67.4-pound wahoo to get on the board. 

Capt. Hallmark said they were fishing about 140 miles out of Destin and had checked about a half-dozen oil rigs before they found the big fish.

The final fish of the 2020 Rodeo was a 36.8-pound wahoo caught on the Rewind with Capt. Reid Phillips.

Stephen Repanshek landed a 57.4-pound gag grouper while fishing aboard the Lady Em with Capt. Mike Eller on an extended voyage trip. His grouper took over first place on Halloween night.

Although fishing wrapped up Saturday, the Rodeo has one last event, the awards party beginning at 4 p.m. Nov. 6 at AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar. Anglers, captains and mates will receive their prizes at the party.