By Tina Harbuck
Although it’s still eight months away, plans are already being made to make the 69th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo in October roll smoothly.
Thursday night, the Rodeo board of directors met to make a few rule and award changes.
First on the list was to add an oddball division.
This division, which is being sponsored by the charter boat Sea Fix, would be open to all registered boats, including those on extended voyages.
What fish are eligible for this division?
“The largest legal fish that is not in any other division in the Rodeo,” is the wording of the rule.
In the past, the Rodeo has had anglers walk up or boats back in with unusual fish that are not listed on the board. For example, an African Pompano was brought to the scales last year, but there was no category for it on the board.
A couple of years ago, Capt. Brad Biggers brought in a huge Cubera snapper, and again there was not a spot for it on the board. Another fish that has been brought in on occasion is a trumpet fish.
However, with this new oddball division even the trumpet fish would be eligible.
“This division is for the creatures of the deep that these guys bring in,” said Helen Donaldson, executive director of the Rodeo. “Everybody oohs and aahs over them and we always have pictures of them, but there wasn’t a category for them. This will give those fish an opportunity to get on the board.”
The oddball division, which may fall under a different name, will have a first and second place.
Another item on the list was the shark.
“All boats will have to have an HMS permit to weigh in a shark this year,” Donaldson said.
HMS permits can be obtained at hmspermits.noaa.gov.
Plus all sharks brought to the weigh-in station must qualify using federal regulations regardless of state rules.
All hammerhead sharks must be a minimum length of 78 inches, and all other sharks a minimum length of 54 inches. The Atlantic Sharpnose is the only exclusion, which has no minimum length.
A couple of other changes on the book for the 69th event is in the Extended Voyage. To be considered in this category, boats must be out a minimum of 18 hours. Plus two new fish have been added to the division, the big eye tuna and snowy grouper.
The AJ’s Bonus Award, which originally was for the largest amberjack but got changed to king mackerel in recent years, will now be for the largest wahoo.
Another change on the books for the 69th Rodeo concerns the mutilation of fish. The rodeo will no longer accept mutilated fish.
“The fish must be whole,” said rodeo director Allen Staples.
Last year, an angler weighed in half of a huge king mackerel. But it was only the head and the top portion of the body. There were questions as to whether or not that fish should be allowed.
But with the new rule on the books, all fish must be whole.
“Fish which have spoiled, been mutilated, frozen or appear to have been frozen or chemically treated are not eligible for competition,” according to rule 1.16.
The Destin Fishing Rodeo, Destin’s longest tradition, kicks off Oct. 1 and goes throughout the entire month with fish hitting the docks daily behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.