October 01 - 31, 2019

Going to Destin Fishing Rodeo?

Book your fishing charter for Destin Fishing Rodeo in Destin on FishingBooker.

What is the Destin Fishing Rodeo?

The Destin Fishing Rodeo is a month-long fishing tournament that takes place in Destin, FL. 

It's one of the most popular fishing tournaments in the US and worldwide, attracting almost 40,000 people each year.

It doesn’t matter if you love fishing for Cobia around reefs, bottom fishing for Grouper, or fighting Tuna offshore.

The Destin Fishing Rodeo welcomes you all!

And, you don’t need to be an expert to win a prize.

The Rodeo has many divisions, for both rookie anglers and experienced fishers. You can stalk the flats for Redfish, troll for King Mackerel, catch Speckled Trout from a pier, or fish the deep for White Marlin and Swordfish.

Destin fishing is on fire in October, making this the perfect time to wet a line and see if you can’t catch a record-breaking fish.

Want to know what fish are biting? Check out Destin fishing calendar below.


Destin Fishing Calendar

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When is the Destin Fishing Rodeo?

The Destin Fishing Rodeo runs from 1 to 31 October each year.

Here are some key dates you shouldn’t miss in 2018:

  • 1 October – The tournament begins! Get up early and compete for the First Fish of the Rodeo prize. You can weigh in your fish every day from 10am to 7pm at the official weigh-in spot behind the AJ’s (Destin Harbor Boardwalk).
  • 5–7 October – Annual Destin Seafood Festival. Live music will be playing on three different stages, while spectators sip their drinks and feast on shrimp and pecan-crusted Snapper. Afterward, you can treat yourself to a nice walk around the harbor with your friends and family.
  • 6 October – No plans for Saturday? How about some Shark fishing? Each Saturday in October (the 6th, 13th, 20th, and 27th), you can compete with other anglers for the biggest Shark of the day! Come chase Mako, Hammerhead, Thresher, Tiger, and Bull Shark. If you catch the biggest fish, you get a $250 prize and a Rodeo trophy. It’s all about the thrill of the chase on Saturdays here!
  • 7 October – Destin 5K Rodeo Run. If you’re not in shape or too keen on running, no worries. You can walk the distance and enjoy the view as the route takes you through the historic lanes of Destin. There will be free refreshments and beer for participants, and a big party at AJ’s, right after the award ceremony. The entrance fee costs $25 and the race starts at 8am, at the Clement Taylor Park. All proceeds will go to local charities.
  • 16 October – Bruce Cheves Day. Bruce has been the Rodeo weighmaster for years. His fishing tales are legendary not just among Destin folk, but in all of Florida. Get your kids and come hear Bruce tell you a story to remember!
  • 20 October – Rootin Tootin Rodeo Roundup. Get your kids aged 10 and under to the Okaloosa Island Pier for some fun pier fishing. Your little ones will get their own rods and gear and can then fish for local critters, such as Redfish, Flounder, Sheepshead, Black Drum, Snook, and many more.
  • 31 October – Rodeo Halloween Party! After a day of fishing, put on your costume and come partake in the festive spirit with fellow anglers. It’s a fun way to celebrate the end of the Rodeo.
  • 4 November – Award ceremony down at AJ’s! This is the time for anglers to get together, grab a drink, and talk to their fellow fishing enthusiasts. It’s a perfect ending to all the fishing action that takes place each October.

What prizes can you win at the Destin Fishing Rodeo?

You can win anything from Shimano rods and reels to $3,000 for the biggest Amberjack of the tournament.

The Destin Fishing Rodeo awards the best in each division with hefty prizes.

Here’s an overview of what you can win if you reel in that fish fast enough!

  • Merchandise certificate and a trophy – for the largest Flounder, King Mackerel, Speckled Trout, Sheepshead, Redfish, and Spanish Mackerel in the kayak division,
  • One-year pier pass and a trophy – for the largest fish in the pier, bridge, jetty and surf division,
  • Shimano rod, reel, and a trophy – 1st and 2nd place in the inshore fishing division,
  • $100 and $200 – for the 2nd and the 1st place in the following categories: charter boats, party boats, charter boats under 25’, private boats, ladies, juniors, seniors, oddball, offshore, reef,and extended voyage fishing divisions,
  • $200 – for the 1st place in billfish and deep dropping divisions,
  • $250 – for the largest Shark of the day (only available on Saturdays),
  • $500 – if you break the record for Gag (70.2 lbs) and Warsaw Grouper (358.8 lbs), King Mackerel (59.8 lbs), Amberjack (106.9 lbs), Wahoo (98.2 lbs), and Mahi Mahi (48.8 lbs),
  • $1,000 – If you catch the 3rd biggest Amberjack of the Tournament,
  • $2,000 – for the 2nd biggest Amberjack of the Tournament,
  • $3,000 – for the 1st biggest Amberjack of the Tournament,
  • Up to $5,000 – for the winner of the King Mackerel Jackpot (all registered boats, including both charters and private which have paid the $100 jackpot entry fee are eligible to take part. Make sure to fill out the jackpot entry form. The biggest King Mackerel wins half of the entire jackpot amount.

What divisions can you compete in at the Destin Fishing Rodeo?

There are numerous categories at the Rodeo, including inshore, offshore, reef, billfish, extended voyage, oddball, senior, ladies, and junior divisions.

Here's an overview of some of them:

Inshore Division

Although inshore fishing may not seem super exciting, believe us: it sure is in these waters. Destin inshore fishing offers calm waters, grassy flats, tasty fish, and all of this close to the shore. You can catch Redfish, Speckled Trout, Flounder, Spanish Mackerel, and Sheepshead. Their peak season is in full swing in October and they are strong fighters.

If you haven’t fished before or want to fish with your kids, register for this division. It will be a fun and enjoyable boat ride, with fish just gulping your bait. Bear in mind that there will be pro anglers as well, so you will have to battle your way to the weigh-in spot.

You don’t need spurs to get these Bulls (Red Drums) going!


Oddball Division

If you just want a chance to wet a line and spend the day on the water enjoying the thrill of the Rodeo without the pressure of competition, we suggest you sign up for this category.

The Rodeo introduced the Oddball Division in 2017 as a way to involve all the other sea critters that anglers pull up while targeting fish for the Rodeo.

So what does this mean? You can weigh-in any legal fish that’s not in the Rodeo books and might get a prize for it. Anything from Trumpet Fish and African Pompano to Cubera Snapper is fair game. So long as you catch these fish legally, you can register for the Oddball division.

African Pompano are the new black: now you can bring various legal fish that are otherwise not recognised by the Rodeo and snatch a prize.


Offshore Division

If you want a taste of speed and strength, this division is for you! You will head 10+ miles offshore–often more–to battle  big predators. This is the home of strong game fish such as Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi Mahi. Be ready to fight with Barracuda, Bonito, and Tripletail, too. All these fish are  feisty and you will need solid fishing skills to wear them out. Look up for birds as they will signal where the fish are below.

While these trips promise an exciting time on the water, have in mind that the waters may be choppy. This can be a problem for less experienced anglers, so make sure to take Dramamine before the trip.

Yellowfin Tuna are among the most popular game fish in the Gulf thanks to their strength and taste.


Deep Drop Division

It’s arm workout time! You will head to deep waters (300+ ft) to try and pull up a variety of bottom dwellers. You can catch Barrelfish, Calico Grouper, Tilefish, Snowy, Warsaw, and Yellowedge Grouper.

These fishing trips aren’t exactly the definition of exciting, but the pounds of flakey meat sure make up for it. These fish live deep down on the seafloor, so there will be no acrobatic displays. However, don’t think they’re easy opponents. You will still need to put in a lot of effort to bring them up.

Tilefish are not only beautiful but tasty as well. If you catch the biggest Tilefish of the Rodeo, you'll earn $200.


Billfish Division

This is where serious anglers come to put all their experience and hard work to the test . Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Swordfish, and Sailfish are out there, far from shore, waiting to put on a display.

These fish are what anglers call monster big game. They will try to taunt you with a display of acrobatics, speed, and strength. Often times, it takes hours before these fish submit. What’s great about Destin billfish trips is that the town has easy access to deep offshore canyons where all these big brutes hide.

Bear in mind that the minimum length for  Blue Marlin is 102”, 69” for White Marlin, and 66” for Sailfish. We encourage you to take part in the Catch and Release Division, where you can take a photo with your catch and then release the fish.


Extended Voyage Division

This is another division for experienced anglers only. Trips in the Extended Voyage division last between 18 and 96 hours, and often take anglers 150+ miles offshore. This is where you can catch almost any big game pelagic or bottom fish. Blue and White Marlin, Tuna, Sailfish, Swordfish, Wahoo, Amberjack, and Mahi Mahi are the fish to find out here. Since these trips run overnight, be sure to book  a boat that’s comfortable and up to the task.


Where to fish in Destin during the Rodeo?

The sky’s the limit! It just depends on what you want to catch. Here are some top picks:

  • East Pass jetties – Perfect for first time anglers who want to catch Redfish or Sheepshead. These jetties stand between the Gulf of Mexico and the Destin Bay, which means that the constant movement of water into and out of the bay stirs up bait fish and in turn attracts schools of game fish.
  • Mid-bay Bridge – Just a couple of minutes from the East Pass stands a premier Redfish hotbed. They will smash your bait in a split second. If you want to win the Inshore Division, we suggest you come fishing here. You’ll find Speckled Trout, Black Drum, Sheepshead, and some Flounder.
  • Culvert, Conch, Barnacle, and other artificial reefs – There are hundreds of artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico where you can catch a good deal of King Mackerel, Amberjacks, Mahi, Snapper, and Grouper. These fish hide around structure like sunken boats, tanks, ledges, and rocks.
  • The Edge – The edge of the continental shelf lies just 20 miles off the coast, where the seafloor drops 180–300 ftand the fishing reaches  a whole new level. These waters are home to  big pelagics and bottom dwellers alike, including King Mackerel, Mahi Mahi, Cobia, Grouper, Amberjack, Tilefish, and Blackfin Tuna, though an odd Sailfish might show up every now and then.
  • 100 Fathom Curve – About 40 miles from dry land, you’ll come across Destin’s real deep sea fishery. These waters are 600 ft deep and teeming with Wahoo, Amberjack, Mahi, and Sailfish.
  • DeSoto Canyon – If you’re eyeing the Billfish Division prize, head to the DeSoto Canyon. This fishery is home to Blue and White Marlin, Sailfish, Tuna, Wahoo, and Swordfish. Just 60 miles offshore from Destin, these waters, rich in baitfish, produce one helluva big game bite. It’s well worth the trip!

Destin Fishing Rodeo weigh-in rules

 

After the fishing trip itself, the most exciting part of the Rodeo is weighing your catch to find out whether you’re eligible for a prize. Weigh-ins take place from 10am–7pm each day in Destin Harbor, behind AJ’s.

 

Weighmaster Bruce Cheves will measure your fish, while telling you some of his famous fishing stories. Bruce has been the essential part of the Rodeo for years, and if there’s a person in Destin who has seen fish of all shapes and sizes, that’s him!

 

The essential need–to–know

  • You can only weigh two fish of each species per day.
  • You and the boat captain need to be present together at the weigh-in and need to sign the official entry form. You will also be asked to verify that you’ve caught the fish by the Rodeo rules.
  • Before you weigh the fish, you need to state the division you’re competing in (see below for more info on divisions).
  • The fish you catch on any given boat can only compete in the division that boat is registered for. For example, if your charter boat is registered for the Billfish division and you happen to catch an Amberjack or Mackerel, you cannot weigh these species.
  • You need to draw (from anal vent to the throat, and remove all entrails) and wash your fish before the weighmaster enters the record into the books. If you bring the whole fish to Bruce, he will send you to the back of the line. The following fish species are exceptions and may be presented to the weighmaster whole: Sharks, Pompano, Flounder, Sheepshead, and Triggerfish.
  • If you’ve got your sights set on a world or state record, you can ask for your fish to be weighed before it’s drawn for the Rodeo entry.
  • If you’re fishing from a charter boat, that boat needs to register for the Rodeo at least 24 hours before you weigh your catch.

Top Targeted Species in Destin

Snapper (Red)

King Mackerel (Kingfish)

Amberjack

Dolphin (Mahi Mahi)

Cobia

Grouper (Gag)

Wahoo

Spanish Mackerel

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