Plans are already underway for the 75th Destin Fishing Rodeo

Tina Harbuck
The Destin Log

Although it’s only been three months since Destin Fishing Rodeo weighmaster Bruce Cheves hung the last fish on the scales, plans are already in the works to make the 75th the best yet. 

The Rodeo, Destin’s longest-running tradition, will host its general membership meeting at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar in Destin. 

The Destin Fishing Rodeo takes place the entire month of October drawing fishermen from all over the United States to the fishing village of Destin. This year the Rodeo will be celebrating 75 years.

“This is an opportunity for anyone who wants to be involved in the 75th Destin Fishing Rodeo to get started,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo. 

But more than that, the Rodeo is hoping the community and businesses will get behind the event. 

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“We’d like to see them put 75 years of the Destin Fishing Rodeo on their marquees and billboards, whatever they have,” Donaldson said. 

“It would be great to start supporting it now, so that our spring and summer visitors can book those fishing trips and come back in the fall. Let’s promote it all year long,” Donaldson said. 

“This is a big deal,” said Capt. Eric Thrasher, a Rodeo board member. 

During the first week of the 74th Destin Fishing Rodeo 412 fish were written up as official entries.

“The Rodeo is the longest running event in Destin. It’s about what Destin was based on … it’s our heritage and tradition,” Donaldson said. 

The Rodeo board is looking to have several raffles throughout the tournament of vacation packages, fishing trips and dinners at some of the local restaurants. But in order to do that, they are looking for sponsorships and donations. 

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Donations can be anything from money to restaurant certificates to vacation stays or even a T-shirt. 

The monies raised from the raffles would go back into the community to such things as the Miss Destin scholarship fund, Ronald McDonald House and the fishing club at Destin High School, to name a few. 

“We’re just looking to make it special,” Donaldson said. 

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“We not only want to succeed as the Rodeo, but help local organizations succeed as well,” Donaldson said. 

At the general meeting on Feb. 9, people will get a chance to become a member and volunteer for the various committees that make the Rodeo work, such as the rules and awards committee, pageant committee and judges committee.   

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The Rodeo is a volunteer nonprofit organization that helps promote recreational fishing in Destin. The tournament spans the entire month of October with more than 30,000 anglers coming to the area to fish.  

Last year, the Rodeo wrote up 1,121 fish entries and had 301 vessels participate. That’s not to mention the folks that fish off the piers and jetties. 

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Memberships are available for $35 for individuals and $50 for families. Corporate memberships are available for $100, which will include a company logo and a larger presence in the Rodeo book.   

Also at the meeting, members will elect three directors from a slate of candidates recommended by the nominating committee. Recommended are longtime Rodeo volunteers, participants and captains. They are Capt. Mike Dates, Capt. Mark Hotze, Becky McFarland, Capt. B.J. Teems and Capt. Eric Thrasher. On the ballot there will be a space to write-in additional nominees. However, people must be a member to vote. 

Here's a look at some of the catches brought in on the last day of the 74th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Complimentary heavy hors d’oeuvres and non-alcoholic beverages will be served. A cash bar will be available.  

What are the benefits of becoming a Rodeo member?  

  • Invitation to Rodeo events, kickoff dinner, awards dinner and annual meeting.
  • Opportunity to serve as a judge at the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.
  • Opportunity to work with events such as the Miss Destin Pageant and the Rodeo.
  • Newsletter updates via email.
  • Discount on Rodeo merchandise at the Rodeo on-site sales trailer.