Most of us are familiar with the traditional cowboy rodeo like the one held in Baker each year. However, we have a different kind of rodeo happening in our backyard that some may not be as familiar with — the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
This saltwater fishing tournament was the brainchild of some Destin locals looking for a way to attract tourists to Destin for a May weekend in 1948. Flash forward to 2019 and the 71st annual Destin Fishing Rodeo operates everyday from Oct. 1 through 31, with daily, weekly and overall weigh-ins and prizes.
Over 30,000 anglers compete in the event for over $100,000 in cash and prizes.
There is something for everyone at the Rodeo. There are over 29 divisions with 33 species targeted.
You can participate in many ways including private boat, party boats, hiring a charter, kayaks, and paddleboards. While anglers on registered boats pay no fee, due to high demand, it’s recommended to make your reservations early.
No boat, no worries. You can also fish from the pier bridge jetty or beach, free for anglers 14 and under and $25 entry fee for those 15 and over. In addition, any child who enters the Rodeo with a fish weighing 1 pound or more gets a free rod and reel.
If you are more into spectating than fishing, there are plenty of opportunities as well. Around 4-7 p.m. each night, the majority of boats bring in their catch to a barge tethered behind AJ’sSeafood and Oyster Bar at the Destin harbor. Here, anglers weigh their catch in front of cheering crowds and pose for pictures with Miss Destin, hoping to win a spot on the huge leaderboard displaying the current front runners.
Other special events include the popular Shark Saturdays, the 5K Rodeo Run, and Halloween on the Harbor.
The Rodeo takes place on the Destin harbor boardwalk near AJ’s. Add this event to your October bucket list and come and join the fun. Yee-haw!
Visit www.destinfishingrodeo.org/ for additional information and rules.
Laura Tiu is an agent at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension office in Crestview.