The Destin Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, Then and Now…

By Capt. Kenneth Nettles

The first annual Rodeo began May 1948 in Destin, FL. to bring more people to the area and increase tourism for local revenue and it exists to this day. It was moved to the month of October in hopes of extending the tourist season. The Rodeo started off with prizes for fish like cash, windshield wipers, cars, land and even twelve packs of beer. Stanley Dennis Boggan was my Grandfather and was fishing the Rodeo from the start. He owned Steel City Glass in Birmingham, AL. and the group of friends that fished with him were called The Steel City Snapper Grabbers.

The Snapper Grabbers would charter a book all to themselves and they were usually the better boat of the fleet. They would load up steel trash cans with homemade rods, tackle, electric reels, etc., and drag them, because they were so heavy, down the concrete stairs leading down to the docks around 3 a.m. The noise woke anyone within ear shot and earned them the nickname, “The Garbos” from the locals. My Grandfather won all kinds of prizes from his time fishing the Rodeo from cash, cars, trophies, kitchen appliances, a kitchen sink and deeds to property—a lot of property. One year he won a Renault Dauphine automobile that he turned around and sold so he would have money to stay and fish every weekend of the Rodeo. He also sold most of the fish he caught in Birmingham, AL for money to fish back in Destin. He would fish the Rodeo every year until his life was tragically cut short coming home from a weekend fishing trip. It was late at night and my Grandfather was asleep in the passenger seat of a friend’s vehicle. His friend fell asleep behind the wheel of the truck and ran off an overpass, killing both men on impact (they never knew what hit them). On a lighter note, state police had to clean up fish scattered down the road side for three days.

I never knew my Grandfather, he died before I was born, but members of my family that knew him say we look and act a lot alike. I am a third generation fishermen, a Capt. and I have won the Rodeo 14 times, and at the time of this article working on number 15. My first Rodeo win was when I was twelve years old in 1981 and I have been going strong ever since. We will never catch the caliber of fish they did back in the day, but there are still big ones to catch. During this year’s 64th annual Rodeo my client, Kimberly Hoffman, brought along her son-in-law. Bryan Lassiter, had never been salt water fishing in his life. Ms. Hoffman wanted me to put him on a big fish and I told her I would do my best. We left the dock around 5 a.m. on October 6, 2012, stopping to catch some very big bait and ran for three hours to a place I have been saving just for the Rodeo. We arrived at the spot and we got him geared up in some stand up fishing gear and got the reel ready, rigged with one of our big baits. I showed him a few quick things on the reel, just going over some basics. I rounded my boat, the Strange Brew, up on the spot and told Bryan to drop it down; it would be his first time dropping bait down in salt water. A few minutes went by and then we got bit and what a bite. The reel was screaming, Bryan was screaming, the rod was doubled over and the fight was on. He was hanging on for dear life and we had someone hanging on to him to make sure he stayed on board. After a thirty minute battle we got color, we could see the fish and it was a huge amberjack, over 100 pounds, easy. It was a once in a lifetime catch. We got to the Rodeo weigh in station and had to remove the 14 pounds of guts from the fish (new Rodeo rules) and when it was all said and done the huge amberjack weighed 90 pounds. The crowd at the Rodeo weigh-in went nuts because it was so exciting. Everyone needs to try and catch a big amberjack during the Rodeo at least once before they kick the Bucket. You will never forget it.

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