Destin Fishing Rodeo doesn’t just happen by itself in October

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Although the Destin Fishing Rodeo takes place in October every year, it doesn’t just happen in October. 

There’s a lot that goes on throughout the year to make the month-long fishing tournament a success. 

"We have to do everything and there’s something going on all the time,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo. 

Miss Destin events on the calendar 

“Right now, we are in the middle of Miss Destin,” she said. 

The Rodeo puts on the Miss Destin pageant with the winner serving as an ambassador for Destin throughout the year, but her main task is to serve during the Rodeo. 

Rodeo news:Miss Destin contestants gather for soda party, first stop on pageant road

The Miss Destin pageant is set for May 8 at Shoreline Church. But before the pageant comes a harbor cruise and judges' tea. 

Volunteer Janie Rose stopped by Friday to fold some of the new T-shirts that arrived for the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

In addition to getting squared away with Miss Destin, Donaldson and Ann White are selling ads for the Rodeo book as well as securing sponsors for awards. 

What’s up with the rodeo rules? 

Before the Rodeo book can go to print, the rules have to be checked. 

“We have to make sure what fish we can catch and what fish we can’t catch in October,” Donaldson said, and alter the rules accordingly. 

Last week, the Rodeo board of directors met to go over a few of the rules and awards. 

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The biggest discussion was around the extended voyage division. 

The board, on recommendation from the rules committee, decided to cut the number of species in the extended voyage in half.  

Destin Fishing Rodeo executive director Helen Donaldson was already tagging shirts for sale at the office last week.

Last year, extended voyage had 10 species on the board, with first and second places for each.  

Captains receive points for first- and second-place fish on the leaderboard. The point system is how the captain of the year is decided each year. 

“You’re stacking the deck against everybody else,” said Capt. Allen Staples, noting only a handful of the boats do extended trips. 

“Quite a few guys are competitive, but they don’t even try because they know what’s coming the last 10 or 15 days of the Rodeo,” Staples said. “They don’t even attempt with a stacked deck against them.”

This is  one of five new designs picked for this year's Destin Fishing Rodeo.

The board made the decision to cut the extended voyage down to five species — amberjack, grouper, scamp, yellowfin tuna and big eye tuna. 

They also can cross over into the billfish and tag and release on extended trips. However, they no longer can enter in the deep drop division or shark division. 

More rodeo news:Destin Fishing Rodeo names top captains for the 72nd annual event

The board also looked at the pier, bridge, jetty and surf division. Fish caught off the Navarre Pier will not be included in this division. Plus, the board decided to add redfish and remove blackfin tuna for this category as well. 

Rodeo merchandise is rolling in 

“We’re getting merchandise in and starting to put it up on the website,” Donaldson said. 

As a matter of fact, Rodeo officials got shirts in last week with three of the new designs. The Rodeo will have five new designs this year. There will be the traditional shirt, then there is a gradient circle shirt, a Rodeo poster shirt, a shirt with the Rodeo logo embossed on the front, plus a fun shirt that resembles the poster of dogs playing poker. 

“This is just a small order to get started and see what sells and what to order in October,” she said. 

Will the Rodeo have masks for sale? Donaldson said they are in a wait-and-see mode on the masks. 

“People don’t just buy Rodeo T-shirts in October, they buy them as soon as we get them … until we don’t have them anymore,” she said.