Destin Fishing Rodeo in Full Swing

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By Cali Hlavac, To Do In Destin

The year 2020 has felt like a lifetime, but we are finally on the home stretch! Fall is officially here and with that comes our beloved Destin Fishing Rodeo! 2020 will be the 72nd Annual Fishing Rodeo in Destin, and like all the challenges we’ve all faced so far this year, there will be some changes to the tournament.

Since its inception in 1948, the Destin Fishing Rodeo has expanded into one of the largest fishing tournaments along the Emerald Coast. The rodeo is an entire month long, spanning October 1-31. Roughly 30,000 anglers compete each year.

For 2020, some of the annual events have been canceled, due to space issues and lack of social distancing options. The Meet Miss Destin event, the 5k Rodeo Run, and traditional Captain’s Meeting held inside AJ’s have all been canceled this year to ensure the safety of everyone participating. Those registering their boats can still pick up their paperwork and bucket of goodies at the merchandise trailer near the weigh ins. However, the Kids Wagon Boat Parade and the Reel Local Rodeo Kickoff Party are both still on as scheduled.
One new addition for 2020: Triggerfish will be added back to the leaderboard for both state and federal water boats, for the first time since 2013. The news comes with the announcement that the NOAA Fisheries have opened Triggerfish season through Oct. 25 this year.

The weigh-ins happen on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster bar located on the Destin Harbor. They are free to the public and are open daily from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. To participate, charter boats and private boats must be registered at least 24 hours prior to weighing in a fish. There is no fee for anglers fishing on a registered vessel (private or charter) and shore fisherman can participate by simply bringing their catch to the scales. Fish by kayak, paddle board, pier, bridge, jetty, shoreline and surf – whichever you prefer.
If you’re planning to make a trip down to the docks, expect to see a broad spectrum of fish being weighed in. From Sharks to Amberjacks, Grouper to King Mackerel, Tunas to Marlin, the rodeo has it all. According to the Destin Rodeo website, “virtually every gamefish is recognized with awards during the Rodeo.” Rodeo anglers are competing for over $100,000 in cash and prizes, awarded for both daily and overall catches.

Even if you’re not a fisherman, the energy level and excitement that comes from being at the docks for weigh ins is like nothing else we’ve ever experienced. Boats back into the scales, pull the fish from their boat while the announcer hypes up the crowd. Fish are strung up on the scale while the crowds cheer and applaud the boat and their team. For the best seat in the house, get there early, grab a few beers and snag a seat on the outdoor bleachers by the leaderboard or above on AJs outside upper deck.

Halloween on the Harbor will signify the end of weigh-ins on Wednesday, Oct. 31, when the captains, anglers, volunteers and even Miss Destin will be dressed in their favorite costume. Everyone is invited to have a safe, fun time!

Cali Hlavac (said like Kay-Lee), Destin Life columnist, is also owner of To Do In Destin and Silver Shade Studios. She started todoindestin.com as a social media platform, in hopes of connecting locals and visitors to all the amazing things Destin has to offer. She’s also talented in capturing all the happiness and love that are present on the wedding day as well as giving couples a fantastic memory of their wedding day through her amazing videography and cinematography. Cali relocated to Destin in 2013 from Nebraska (Go Big Red!) to bring her entrepreneurial spirit and existing brands to the beach life. She can be reached at highfive@todoindestin.com.