Getting Rodeo ready

Tina Harbuck
Destin Fishing Rodeo Weighmaster Bruce Cheves entertains the crowd with fish facts during a weigh-in area behind AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar in Destin in last year's Destin Fishing Rodeo. [FILE PHOTO]

The docks have been a buzz the last few days with folks talking about the upcoming 69th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, which kicks off Sunday, Oct. 1.

Several of the charters are booked and ready to hit the waters in search of a big catch to bring to the scales located behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar. The scales will be open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. and you never know what’s going to come through the Pass.

As weighmaster Bruce Cheves likes to say they could be bringing in guppies to Godzilla in bathtubs to battleships – you just never know. And be assured the minute you walk away from the scales, that’s when the big one is going to hit the docks.

Anyhow, Helen Donaldson, executive director for the Rodeo, already has her office set up on the second floor at AJ’s and is ready to go.

As of early Thursday, she had registered 44 private boats and 84 charter boats.

“But the numbers go up every time someone walks through that door,” she said.

Donaldson anticipates by the time the Rodeo gets rolling we should have 287 boats competing for cash and prizes in the 69th annual event, Destin’s longest running tradition.

The Rodeo will get rolling Sunday with the scales opening at 10 a.m.

Although it’s supposed to be a beautiful day, word is the seas may be a bit rough.

Nevertheless, Mayor Scott Fischer will be on hand to hand out the prize to the angler who weighs in the first fish as well as Miss Destin Rachel McMullen. The prize is a custom Rodeo trophy sponsored by The Trophy Center.

“We anticipate it starting with a bang,” Donaldson said.

But what will the first fish be?

“A flounder or a speckled trout … but I’d love for it to be a big wahoo or king mackerel,” Donaldson said.

This reporter is thinking it might even be a redfish, with all the recent redfish action near the jetties and Destin Coast Guard Station.

But just remember if you are fishing off the jetties, you need to be registered in the Pier, Bridge, Jetties and Surf Division before you land that big one.

What’s new this year?

The Odd Ball Division is the only real new division that the Rodeo has added.

“It’s a place to weigh those fish that we don’t have a place for on the board,” Donaldson said. “It’s for fish we don’t normally see like that cubera snapper that we had a few years ago.”

The Rodeo also did a courtesy weigh on an African pompano last year that could go in that Odd Ball Division.

This category is for those “fish that just happen to be swimming by that somebody catches and they can weight it in,” she said.

And just so you know, gators and dogs don’t qualify.

However, weighmaster Bruce Cheves will weigh it.

“Bruce will weigh anything from a guppy to Godzilla and caught in a bathtub to a battleship,” she said.

And he has the visor to prove it.

“I just think it’s going to be fun. And my weighmaster is ready,” Donaldson said.

As a matter of fact, Cheves said he’s looking forward to “sea monsters and whatever they want to bring in … we’ll have a good time.”