DESTIN FISHING RODEO 1954 Image by Destin Fishing & History Museum via New Orleans Magazine.

Destin’s Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo

Destin’s Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo has roots dating back to 1948 when a sense of community embraced the World’s Luckiest Fishing Village to promote compassion and well-being for fellow fisherman and families. What started as a three day special event to extend the fishing season a little further has now blossomed into a month long fishing tournament filled with festivities that cater to the whole family. Visitors from all over the world now travel to Destin every year during the month of October for one of the biggest annual deep sea fishing tournaments. From championship fishing teams to toddlers and teens, there is something for everyone during Destin’s Annual Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.

Blessings from the past continue to overwhelm the coast as an abundant harvest of the most desirable fish in the Gulf of Mexico are brought to shore by anglers aboard Destin’s finest charter boats. To describe this annual event as anything short of glorious is an understatement.  The amazing encounters of unbelievable and record-breaking saltwater fish caught, during the month of October, entices locals, visitors, and retired fisherman to grace the dock for a glimpse of the daily catch and weigh-in boards.

Harvesting Harbor Blessings

Destin was founded as a fishing village in 1835 when Leonard Destin, a fisherman from New London, Connecticut, discovered one of the best kept secret saltwater hot spots that the world would ever come to know.

As quality marine saltwater species rely on deep waters to live, reproduce, and grow to colossal size,Destin’s prominent access to deep waters distinguishes its position as the most desirable sports, recreational, and commercial fishing location in the Gulf of Mexico.

A boy and his large catch of fish at the Destin Rodeo 1955. Image by Francis P. Johnson via State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory..

Captain Wheeler and crew with 455 Pound Marlin. 1972. Image by Karin Linick via State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

Roy H. Martin displays the reason he holds 19 world fishing records at the Destin Rodeo in 1956. Image by Karl E. Holland via State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.

With a mere 10 miles from the shore line, anglers aboard Destin charter boats are already hitting some great spots, which means paying for less travel time and larger quantities of quality saltwater fish than anywhere else on the Gulf CoastWith over 175 years of family secrets passed through the bloodlines of the founding fishermen of Destin, experienced captains know exactly where to reel-in the finest fish in the Gulf of Mexico. The ability to deliver surpasses the expectations of customers, and brings them back for more each year after their first taste of glory.

Jake Brashears, official Rodeo Photographer, made this awesome video for the 2016 Destin Fishing Rodeo! Make your plans today to come join the fun October 1 - 31, 2016. Like (or Love) and share! Let's see how many people we can get to see our awesome part of the Gulf of Mexico! Half Hitch Destin Florida's Emerald Coast #emeraldcoasting #rodeodestin

Posted by Destin Fishing Rodeo - Destin, Florida on Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Weigh Master Bruce Cheves with a day’s weigh-in during the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo

69th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo

Destin is already recognized as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” and the “Billfish Capital of the Gulf.” The annual rodeo is a celebration of the blessings given to these legendary fishermen with participation from over 30,000 saltwater anglers from all over, who come to compete for bragging rights, prizes, and cash. With Destin’s annual rodeo growing in reputation as the “Ultimate Saltwater Tournament,” the prizes and awards grow even more elaborate each year. Booking a charter with a registered captain automatically qualifies all anglers to enter the tournament with no additional charge, and you are still in the running for award winning placement at the weigh-ins.

There are 29 divisions for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places, consisting of over 33 species of fish, in seniors, ladies, juniors, and teen subdivisions, with rewards for the top daily, weekly, overall, andjackpot catches. The sense of community from 1948 is still maintained today, as registered charter boat captains volunteer their time and sponsor several of the rewards for top winners, totaling over $100,000.00 in cash and prizes. When you charter a vessel registered with Destin’s Fishing Rodeo, your chances are great for a prize catch.

Shark Saturdays

Shark Saturdays are one of the most exciting events in the annual Destin Fishing Rodeo. Anglers are allowed one entry for the day, and since the entry with the largest shark wins, the shark hunters are aiming for the big ones. Over the years, we’ve seen some massive sharks come in from the gulf.

This October, the Saturdays will give those hanging out for the weigh-ins a thrill to remember. The slogan for the 2017 Shark Saturdays tournament is Hang ‘Em High. The bigger the shark, the higher it hangs.

If observing the sharks coming in is not enough excitement to get your blood pumping,BOOK YOUR SHARK HUNT TODAY. Shark trips in October are very popular, and must be booked well in advance. Remember, cash prizes are given to the angler who brings in the largest shark.

For the best chances of catching a winning bull shark or mako, we recommend an overnight charter leaving Friday nights in October to set up with plenty of time to catch some other entry fish while we’re out, and to get back to the weigh-ins at AJ’s on Saturday.

Fish the Days and Rock the Nights

What’s better than a Saturday of deep sea fishing in Destin, Florida? Well, nothing really. But to make an even better experience, HarborWalk Village will be hosting a party every Saturday night in October, beginning October 1st from 7:00 PM through 9:30 PM. Fireworks will light up the Destin Harbor at 9:00 PM. The Fish the Days and Rock the Nights event is free to the public, so bring the family down, watch the rodeo weigh-ins behind AJ’s from 10AM-7PM, and then head to the village for live entertainment, music, and the freshest local seafood that you can find! The Fish the Days and Rock the Nights event is shared with a variety of fall activities along the Destin Harbor, so visitors of all ages are welcome to join in on the fun!

Children with their winning catches at the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Image courtesy of Destin Fishing Rodeo

A Fishing Tournament for the Whole Family

Deep sea fishing tournaments are huge for avid fishermen of all backgrounds. What makes the Destin Fishing Rodeo stand apart from other tournaments is the emphasis placed on children during the event. The biggest  investment that the fishing communities across America have is in our children. The Destin Fishing Rodeo is a time to involve children and families in the traditions of coastal living.

Every child that enters a fish weighing at least 1 pound into the tournament will win a rod and reel, and they’ll receive an official rodeo certificate. This is not one of those everyone gets a trophy for trying organizations. Instead, the deep sea fishing community of Destin, Florida aims to plant a seed of inspiration into the hearts of young children who have the opportunity to experience a true love for fishing.

A wise man once said, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” That’s exactly what we intend to do with these children participating in the fishing rodeo. Teaching a child to love the sport of fishing ensures that the respect and passion for our saltwater resources will continue to thrive long after today’s generation of fishermen retire. After all, we’ll need some of these youngsters to go out and catch us some snappers some day.

So, bring your children down to fish in the Destin Fishing Rodeo. Make it an annual tradition, and consider an investment into both your child and the future of our fishing community. There are several events geared towards children of all ages, and lots of stories to hear from the famous Bruce Cheves who delights in sharing his stories of victorious catches with little ones.

The Reel Bottom Line

  • The 69th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo lasts from October 1st through October 31st
  • Weigh-ins are held behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar where anglers will meet Bruce Cheves, the official Rodeo Weigh-master, and the 2017 Miss DestinRachel McMullen.
  • Several events and festivities run throughout the month of October to sustain the excitement and celebration of the harvest, including Destin’s Seafood Festival, the Kid’s Fall Festival and Wagon Parade, the Ringing of the Bell Ceremony, the Rootin Tootin Rodeo Round-Up, and the Halloween on the Harbor Party.
  • Shark Saturdays will run every Saturday in October, including the 7th14th21st, and 28th. Anglers with the biggest catch will win the cash prize.
  • Daily, weekly, and overall winners are awarded over $100,000.00 in cash and prizes.
  • Senior, Ladies, Teen, and Junior divisions ensure fun for the whole family.
  • Once you fish during a Fishing Rodeo in the Destin waters, you’ll be hooked on the tradition for years to come.

Destin Fishing Rodeo: Florida’s Emerald Coast.

The sooner that you book your charter for Destin’s Annual Fishing Rodeo, the better. This is a prime-time harvest season and some of the best fishing that you will encounter during your lifetime. Making a reservation will guarantee your place as you embark on the legendary adventures of deep sea fishing in Destin.Tournament entry fees are covered with your charter. For the best chances to gain a top spot on the weigh-in boards, it is recommended to charter a boat with a seasoned captain and a reputation for hooking the Big Ones.

So, what are you waiting for? The 69th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo is just around the corner. BOOK NOW 

The 69th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo Event Schedule

Saturday, October 1st – 31st 2017

10:00 am – 7:00 pm

The 68th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo will officially begin on October 01, 2017 and continue through October 31, 2017.

Weigh-ins are held on the dock behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar each day where you will find Bruce Cheves, the Rodeo Weigh-master, and meet the 2017 Miss Destin, Rachel McMullen.

The weigh-in event is free to the public, and so are the stories told by the legendary Weigh-master. Anglers will bring their catch of the day to be weighed for placement on the board and have their photos taken with Miss Destin.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

10th Annual Kid’s Wagon Boat Parade

Elementary aged children are encouraged to participate in the Kid’s Wagon Boat Parade at 2:00 PM. Each year, children design and parents help construct their own wagons to resemble nautical vessels for the parade on the harbor. With Fall Break coming up, the kids will have plenty of time to work on their wagons and present their fun ideas for the parade.

October 6th – 8th

FRI.   4:00 pm – 10:00 pm / SAT. 10:00 am – 10:00 pm / SUN. 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

The 39th Annual Destin Seafood Festival along the Destin Harbor Boardwalk is free to the public, and is a

great event to attend during Destin’s Fishing Rodeo. Live entertainment is provided by local bands on four stages along the harbor including the Destin City Stage, the Heron Stage, AJ’s Game Stage, and HarborWalk’s Village Main Stage. The East Pass Marina and HarborWalk Village are designated Kid Fun Zones with several activities to keep children entertained for hours. Kid Fun Zones consist of a petting zoo, pony rides, games, Hamster balls, a rock climbing wall, and a zip line over the festival crowds.

The Annual Mingo Toss is held at the Royal Melvin Heritage Park on Sunday from 11:30 amthrough 1:00 pm. With a name like Destin’s Seafood Festival, this event is essentially the biggest seafood tasting venue to ever hit the Gulf Coast. With access to over 15 food vendors and 13 restaurants along the harbor, the Destin Seafood Festival will fill your hunger for coastal cuisine. Destin’s unique style is captured by local skilled artists who display their inspirational creations along the harbor during the festival. There is truly something for everyone at the 39th Annual Destin Seafood Festival, and as the 69th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo launches on October 01, visitors are offered a front row seat for daily catches approaching the shore.

39th Annual Seafood Festival Poster by Theresia McInnis.

Shark Saturdays/ Fish the Days and Rock the Nights

October 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th

Each Saturday in the month of October will be deemed Shark Saturday. The 2017 slogan for Shark Saturday is Hang ‘Em High. The bigger the shark, the higher they’ll hang. Cash prizes are given to the angler who reels-in the largest shark. BOOK YOUR SHARK CHARTER NOW.

Following the weigh-ins behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar, HarborWalk Village will host a dock party every Saturday night in October. Live music, seafood, and fun for the whole family will last from 7:00-9:30 PM.  Fireworks will light up the harbor at 9:00 PM for this weekly celebration during Destin’s Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Destin 5K Rodeo Run: Participants will gather at the Clement E. Taylor Park on Calhoun Drive to participate in the annual 3.1 mile flat course. There is a $25 entry fee, and the proceeds will support the Ronald McDonald’s House and the Miss Destin Scholarship Fund. Click here to register. Early packet pick-up will be on Thursday, October 5th – 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm and Friday, October 6th – 11:00 am –1:00 pm at the Destin Community Center located at 103 Stahlman Avenue in Destin.  An award ceremony will follow the 5K run at AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar with free beer and refreshments for participants. Children, wheelchairs, and strollers are welcome in this event.

Destiin Rodeo Run. Image Source:

Monday, October 09, 2017

Kid’s Fall Fest

From 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM. AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar will host the Kid’s Fall Festival with live music, arts and crafts, face painting, games, and pumpkin decorating. Join the fun with no cost to participants, and enjoy a front row seat at the weigh-ins during the 69th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Bruce Cheves Day, as proclaimed by the City of Destin. Join the gathering of men, women, and children to hear the epic tales of the official Rodeo Weigh-master, Bruce, during his heyday at sea. Bring him a fish, and he’ll make you famous!

Ringing of the Bell Ceremony: At 5:00 pmBruce will honor the legendary lives of Destin’s loved ones as he leads the annual Ringing of the Bell ceremony at the weigh station behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

Rootin Tootin Rodeo Round Okaloosa Island Image by: The Destin Log: Rodeo Rap

Saturday, October 21, 2017

8:00 am – 12:00 pm

Rootin Tootin Rodeo Round-Up: Hurry up and register your little anglers, (AGES 10 and UNDER), at Eventbrite for one of the rodeo’s biggest events for future fishing leaders. There is only space for 150 youth anglers, so get their names on the list today. Once registered, they can look forward to a fantastic morning of fishing, prizes, and lunch at the Okaloosa Island Pier. The entry fee is $10.00 for each child. Arrive between 8:00 and 8:45 am on the morning of the 21st for registration roll call. Fishing will begin at 9:00 am and last until 11:00 am. These lucky young anglers will receive a tee-shirt, bait, a rod and reel to keep, and lunch. Parents and pier fees are included in the $10 entry fee.

Monday, October 31, 2017

Halloween on the Harbor: Locals declare Halloween on the Harbor as the largest Halloween Party in Destin, Florida. Everyone is invited to join the 68th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo’s Fleet, judges, and Miss Destin in wrapping up another abundant harvest of great fishing. Wear your costume, and witness the closing of the rodeo with a huge party complete with a fireworks finale sponsored by AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.

Friday, November 03, 2017

69th Annual Destin Fishing Rodeo Awards: AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar will host the gathering to present the award winning Captains, Anglers, and Mates who will hold the overall records for the upcoming year! These fishermen are truly the luckiest of “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village!”

Written By: Jessica Baggett