The big show will be back for the 88th annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR), scheduled July 15-18 at the rodeo site on Dauphin Island.
Now that COVID-19 restrictions have been eased, a long weekend of fun, fishing and entertainment awaits those who venture to Alabama’s barrier island for the event that attracts more than 3,800 anglers to the state’s fertile waters and Gulf of Mexico.
“We’re very much looking forward to it,” said Ryan Schumann, 2021 Rodeo president. “That’s not to say I’m not proud of everything we accomplished last year. Being in the middle of COVID, we were still able to put on a fishing tournament and have right at 3,800 anglers. But we’re looking forward to getting back to the full of it. What that means is a sponsorship tent with our vendors to allow our sponsors to interact with the spectators. I’m looking forward most to getting back to the entertainment, having spectators and having people at the event outside of just our anglers.”
Schumann said one aspect of the ADSFR he really appreciates is that it exemplifies what Dauphin Island is about – community fellowship, fun and entertainment.
“It’s an annual event that everybody looks forward to and comes together to participate,” he said. “People from out of town who have family at Dauphin Island always come to town for the rodeo. I’ve got friends who grew up on Dauphin Island and moved away. But the Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo is a signature event that they always come back for. The rodeo has always been a label for the community, a staple for the community.
“We are happy that people will be able to see the culture on Dauphin Island. I’m excited that we will see people out and about, having fun again.”
Rodeo festivities kick off on Thursday, July 15, with the Captain T-Bone’s Liars Contest at 6 p.m., followed by music from Yellowhammer, featuring former Major League Baseball Cy Young winner Jake Peavy. The music theme this year is “Reelin’ in the Years” with 70s music on Thursday, 80s music on Friday and 90s music on Saturday.
Fishing begins at 5 a.m. on Friday, July 16, with the traditional cannon blast. The weigh station will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The musical entertainment will start at 7:30 p.m. with The Molly Ringwalds.
Mustache, The Band will be Saturday’s entertainment at 5 p.m. The weigh station will again be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
On Sunday, the final day of competition, the weigh station will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At 6:30 p.m., any rodeo participant who weighed in a legal fish will be eligible for random drawings for a Contender 25 Bay boat and Yamaha 250hp SHO outboard package and a Seakeeper boat stabilizer. The awards ceremony will be at 6 p.m. Monday at The Grounds in Mobile.
Anglers will compete in 30 regular fish categories as well as the Yamaha Speckled Trout Jackpot, the Synergy Laboratories King Mackerel Jackpot and the Raymarine Big Game Jackpot. Cash Prizes categories are available for several species. Visit www.adsfr.com for details.
Schumann said the rodeo decided not to have red snapper as a regular category because of the uncertainty of when the season will close.
“As everybody knows, the most popular fish along the Alabama Gulf Coast is red snapper,” he said. “Currently, we do not have it in the 30 open categories or as a jackpot. For the past few years, red snapper has not been available for fishing come rodeo weekend. The red snapper season is based on a quota. Based on projections, we don’t see us having red snapper this year for the rodeo. But, if it is in season, we will add it back to the tournament as a jackpot category.”
Swordfish has been added as a category for the 2021 rodeo with a minimum length of 50 inches measured from the lower jaw to the fork in the tail.
The grouper category will include yellowedge, gag and red grouper.
The speckled trout jackpot entries will be limited to fish in Alabama’s speckled trout slot limit of 15 to 22 inches, measured with a pinched tail. A cash prizes lunker category is available in speckled trout with a minimum size of 26 inches, pinched tail.
In the live weigh-in category, the rodeo will have a “Race to 18” for anglers who weigh in a daily limit of six live speckled trout in the slot limit. The first angler who weighs in a three-day total of 18 live slot fish wins the prize.
Capt. Richard Rutland, past rodeo president and co-chairman of the rodeo rules committee, said a new method will be used to measure speckled trout and redfish.
“We’ll be using a measuring device called a Check-It Stik on a tilted board with a Perfect Pincher that is a hands-free way of measuring the fish,” Rutland said. “The Perfect Pincher will pinch the tail, and then the fish will be called by the judge. This way, we will have consistency during the weigh-in process. This will be used for speckled trout and redfish, the only two slot species.”
Last year’s restricted rodeo was a flashback to rodeos past, when the only extra people on Dauphin Island were anglers. Despite the extra workload at the contemporary rodeo’s return, Schumann said the rodeo is ready to rock and roll.
“Last year, for the organization and the Mobile Jaycees who work the rodeo, we had fun,” he said. “It was a lot less work. We were able to breathe a little bit. We got back to our roots as just a fishing tournament, which is at our core. And it was an extremely successful one. We had almost 3,800 anglers participate.
“But this year, we’re going be nonstop the whole tournament. That’s a good thing. We’re glad we’re going to be able to provide the full entertainment and spectator package. We’ve grown fond of everything we do to attract people to the island. We’re excited about that.”
The weekend preceding the big rodeo, the Jaycees will hold the annual Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament. The tournament begins at 5 a.m. on July 10, and the weigh station will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. The Roy Martin event is open to all anglers 15 years old and younger. The young anglers will be competing in 31 fish categories. All proceeds will benefit the Mobile Jaycees Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour.
David Rainer is an award-winning writer who has covered Alabama’s great outdoors for 25 years. The former outdoors editor at the Mobile Press-Register, he writes for Outdoor Alabama, the website of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.