Destin Fishing Rodeo – Visitors Guide 2023

Every year during the entire month of October, the Destin Harbor swells with excitement as amateur and professional anglers bring in their daily catch to be weighed and logged against the others of the day and the entire month. Generally, most of the excitement takes place around dinner time and into the evening as all the boats come back one after another. 

This exciting fishing tournament called the Destin Fishing Rodeo happens annually in Destin, with the cities tagline calling Destin “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.” 

About The Destin Fishing Rodeo

The rodeo is an annual event that takes place between October 1st and October 31st of every year and has been taking place since 1948, making 2023 it’s 75th year running. Back in the early 1940s and 50s, it’s hard to imagine as Destin as beautiful as it is now with the true charm of a sleepy fishing village. No high-rises, no traffic, just beautiful beaches and world class fishing. Does it get much better than that? 

The Destin Fishing rodeo takes place on the Destin Harbor Boardwalk near AJ’s restaurant where a big float barge holds the judging stage and last years Miss Destin winner will be present helping MC the event almost every night of the event. 

Boats bring in their catch, sometimes professional fisherman on private boats, and sometimes chartered amateur anglers looking to compete in the tournament and claim some of the large cash prizes available. The results of what each boat brought in are visible to the public up close and personal as the scales used to weigh the fish lift them up right in front of the main visitor seating area. Weigh ins take place from 10am until 7pm every day, but the best times tend to be from the 4pm-7pm hour because of the frequency the boats return to offload their catch. 

On a huge leader board close by, you’re able to keep track of the types of fish caught since the beginning of the event including weight, size, type, what boat, and more. Registered anglers fish for prizes based on how much the catch weighs, or the length of a fish, based on a specific time, each catch documented by photo. 

Cash & Prizes

The entirety of the event is run by volunteers in both the organization of the event as well as sponsored prizes given out to the winners. This includes local businesses giving away products and services as well as charter captains giving their time to take out anglers looking to take the prize in their respective category.

Because of the immense scale of this event, the categories for prizes are broken down into 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place for all categories which include seniors, juniors, and teens. In addition to that, there are additional prizes awarded each day, week, overall, and jackpot prizes for those lucky one-of-a-kind catches. 

To further the list of available categories even further, there are around 33 eligible species of fish that fall into the previously mentioned placements so you can see that there’s plenty of excitement for people of all skill ranges, ages, and interests. 

How to Participate

On a regular day Destin is filled with Charter Boat Captains ready to take your out for the fishing trip of a lifetime and there’s no shortage of experienced Captains waiting for you for the Destin Fishing Rodeo. You have the option to ride aboard what’s called a “Party Fishing Boat” that will hold upwards of 50 people on this one boat or you can charter a more private trip of 6-18 people depending on the size of the boat. 

In order to participate in the rodeo, those fishing along the beach can simply bring their catch to the weighing station and have it weighed. Anglers on fishing boats pay no fee for weigh-ins. However, boats must register 24 hours in advance of a weigh in from their list of passengers so be sure to book a registered boat well before you want to participate. 

There are many boats, but demand is very high so make your reservations early. 

Some of the best party boats in Destin are: 

Just a few of the Charter Boat’s we’d recommend: 

To view even more boats ready to charter, click here to visit the official list of registered charter boats participating in the Destin Fishing Rodeo.

Shark Saturdays

Perhaps one of the most exciting days of the event for kids and adults alike is Shark Saturdays. The kids are always shocked to see massive sharks sometimes over triple the height of bystanders hanging from the scale. Most people don’t realize there are plenty of sharks roaming nearby in the Gulf of Mexico which creates the impetus for Shark Saturday’s “Winner Takes All” style event. 

Everyone participating is allowed one entry each and the biggest shark wins the cash prizes available for that day, so what most people do is charter an overnight shark fishing excursion and spend all night into the following day trying to get the biggest catch.

Because of the popularity of this event, shark fishing charters this time of year book well in advance so if you’re interested make sure you call local shark fishing charter captains well in advance to get your dates locked in. 

Fun for The Kids

Kids love the excitement of the event because of the size of the boats, the excitement in the area, and feeling the anticipation of what the fish coming in might weigh. There’s a huge scale hanging up so everyone can see the fish and it’s weight which is a great time for the kids to guess weights and keep them interested. 

In addition to that, any child who participates and enters a fish in the Destin Fishing Rodeo that weighs 1 pound or more gets a free rod and reel and a certificate that is perfect for framing as a wonderful memory of your most recent trip to Destin. 

Event Location & Parking

The event takes place on the Destin Harbor Boardwalk near AJ’s Seafood and Oyster bar, so it would be easy to park at AJs or the Emerald Grande parking lot and walk down, but this isn’t always easy because of the fast these lots can fill up. Take a look at the map below and see what your options are. 

Halloween on the Harbor

To close out the event, be sure to show up to AJs and participate in the final night of the Destin Fishing Rodeo in your Halloween costumes! This is definitely the biggest Halloween party in Destin and you’ll be accompanied by tons of other visitors and locals alike in amazing costumes, along with Rodeo Captains, Anglers, Judges, and Miss Destin herself! 

AJs will end the evening with a huge fireworks display right overheard, marking the end of another great year of the Destin Fishing Rodeo and the end to a memorable, fun filled evening of Halloween partying on the Destin Harbor. 

Where to Stay

If you want to visit Destin during the Fishing Rodeo, you can stay in numerous places with easy access to the event. We’d recommend staying on Holiday Isle (Gulf Shore Drive) which is directly across the harbor, but will require roughly a ten minute drive to get to the event, depending on traffic conditions.

Another great option is to stay in some of the many condos located on the beach about 2-3 miles to the East of the Destin Harbor. Stretching from the intersection of Gulf Shore Drive and Highway 98 to the East all the way to Henderson Beach State Park are countless high rise condos offering wonderful views of the water, direct access to the beach, many of them with private pools, and easy access to the Destin Fishing Rodeo. The Emerald Grande is the condo complex located on-site to the fishing rodeo which is beautiful and makes getting to and from the event a breeze. 

We hope this information has been helpful for you and we can’t wait to see you at this years Destin Fishing Rodeo!