By Cali Hlavac
October means the Destin Fishing Rodeo is officially here, a favorite time of year for amateur and professional anglers alike. Part 1 of our series covered the history of the Destin Fishing Rodeo, how anglers can participate, what you can win and some of the upcoming rodeo events. We’ll have a little more fun in this one, highlighting some of the most memorable catches over the years and fill you in on the changes for 2018.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Destin Fishing Rodeo, bringing with it a variety of changes to help make the competition better and more fair. For starters, the Rodeo board has put Amberjack back on the leaderboard for the first time since 2013, when regulators had previously closed the fishery down to overfishing. It will also be the “bonus” fish for the AJ’s Bonus Award; last year was the Wahoo.
The board has also moved some fish around on the leaderboard. The four main fish on the board are king mackerel, grouper, amberjack and blackfin tuna and they will go all the way from charter boats down to the senior division. There will also be a first and second place for the senior angler, ladies and juniors for those four main fish.
Another major change was to remove Sharks from the daily board as well as the main board, but the Rodeo will still have Shark Saturdays and the Mako My Day division. The largest shark wins, so expect to see some monsters being pulled in and weighed.
Also new to the mix, the Rodeo has added a Deep Drop Division, allotting first place spots only for the largest tilefish, yellowedge grouper, snowy grouper, Kitty Mitchell, Warsaw and barrelfish.
First place only spots were how the Destin Rodeo began, awarding prizes only to the largest weighing fish of all types including King Mackerel, Triggerfish, Red Snapper, Amberjack, Redfish and more, as well as a prize for the “Largest Edible Fish.” Sharks were the only exception, when first place was awarded to the longest Shark.
There have been numerous monster catches over the years, and even a few crazy catches as the rules state “anything” caught in the Gulf can be weighed at the Rodeo. Destin Rodeo records include a 111.6lb Amberjack from 2012, caught by Mark Underdahl fishing with Capt. Ken Nettles aboard the Strange Brew. Another is a 98.2lb Wahoo caught by Omar Breiz aboard the Charter Boat Don’t Hate with Capt. Scott Whitehurst. A massive 11ft, 844.4lb Mako Shark was a record holder as well, caught in 2007 about seventy miles southwest by Adlee Bruner and five friends aboard Charter Boat Twilight with Capt. Robert Hill.
Since most anything caught in the Gulf of Mexico can be weighed in at the Destin Fishing Rodeo, there have been a variety of off the wall catches to make the scales including alligators, rattlesnakes, grandfather clocks, dead deer, and even a drone caught underneath the Destin Bridge. Bruce Cheves has been the Rodeo Weighmaster on the docks for almost 30 years and it feels like he’s seen it all.
The Rodeo is free to the spectating public, who can gather around the scale on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar in Destin from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. daily during the month of October. Halloween on the Harbor will signify the end of weigh ins on Wed. Oct 31, when the captains, anglers, volunteers, and even Miss Destin will be dressed in their favorite costume. We invite you to come check it out and be a part of this 70th year in Destin Rodeo history.