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91st ADSFR Adds Dock Space, New Categories

A new dock and boardwalk, a new live weigh-in category and a new species for catch and release are among the highlights for the 91st annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR), set for July 19-21 at the rodeo site on Dauphin Island.

The new dock and boardwalk will increase the capacity for the number of boats that can be tied up to head to the weigh-in station, and the boardwalk will also provide access to the north side of the rodeo property.

"We added a dock 7 to help alleviate pressure during the busy weigh-in times," said Matt Glass, ADSFR President. "Also, between docks 1 and 2, we added a platform across that with pilings and stringers to make a huge platform. The reason we did that was to be able to tie up two small boats on the end of the platform or back two big boats into the slips to get to the crane to weigh in your big fish like sharks and billfish. Technically, now you can have four big boats pull in all at once.

"We extended the boardwalk all the way to the edge of the property on the north side to give scientists more room to work. We set some pilings up there so the Sheriff's Flotilla and the scientists can tie up their boats so they're not taking up dock space. And the boardwalk gives them easy access to their work area."

Along with about 4,000 rodeo anglers, marine scientists flock to the ADSFR because of the access to a wide variety of species as well as the larger size of fish that are caught during the competition. Marine scientists will collect a great deal of data during the three-day tournament. Dr. Sean Powers, rodeo judge and head of the University of South Alabama Marine & Environmental Sciences Department, will bring a crew of students and researchers to sample a variety of fish. Dr. Marcus Drymon of Mississippi State University will bring a team to take a samples from the shark species brought to the scales at the rodeo site. The Dauphin Island Sea Lab will also have a crew at the rodeo to assist with the sampling.

One of the new features that will aid marine scientists is the addition of the catch-and-release category for jack crevalle.

"One of our scientists, Dr. Marcus Drymon, was very adamant about it," Glass said. "He's been doing a lot of research on it, and he's working with scientists in south Florida. He thought it would be a good idea. Up here in the northern Gulf, they're everywhere. They're using this to learn more about the fish, and we're always happy to help the scientists."

In the CCA (Coastal Conservation Association) of Alabama Live Weigh-In Special Awards category, flounder has been added to the species that can be brought to the weigh-in site alive and be entered to win a variety of prizes. Previously, the category allowed only redfish and speckled trout.

"We had several people ask about adding flounder last year," Glass said. "I talked to the board, and the scientists thought that would be a great idea."

Conservation Commissioner Chris Blankenship applauded the evolution of the ADSFR, which has been a part of his life for a long, long time.

"I love the ADSFR," Commissioner Blankenship said. "Growing up on Dauphin Island and then working for the Alabama Department of Conservation, I have attended or fished in more than half of the 91 rodeos. A lot has changed with the event over those years. I think the ADSFR is in the best place ever with the way the event is done now with a focus on science, conservation and highlighting the great inshore and offshore fishing we have in Alabama."

The red snapper category and Craneworks Red Snapper Jackpot are pretty much locks right now with the projections from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Marine Resources Division (MRD). Snapper Check data indicate there will be plenty of red snapper quota remaining for the rodeo. The 2024 catch limit is 659,654 pounds. As of June 17, MRD's data showed that the harvest had not reached the 200,000-pound mark.

"It's looking really good for red snapper," Glass said. "Harvest numbers right now are low, so the statistics show we will absolutely have the red snapper. It's a huge part of the rodeo."

Ticket holders who weigh in a legal fish in the 91st rodeo will be eligible for more than $450,000 in cash and prizes, including a Contender 25 bay boat with a Yamaha 250-horsepower outboard. The winner of the boat-motor package will be selected in a random drawing from all participants who weigh in a legal fish or enter a legal fish in the catch-and-release categories during the tournament. Your chances of winning the top prize packages are the same if you catch a 14-inch ladyfish in the surf along the Alabama Gulf Coast or haul in a huge billfish from the Gulf of Mexico.

The ADSFR started as a tarpon tournament in 1929, long before a bridge allowed easy access to the island, with 250 anglers. With only a break during World War II, the rodeo has grown exponentially and was designated the world's largest saltwater fishing tournament by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011. This year's rodeo is expected to draw about 4,000 anglers from all across the nation.

One aspect of the ADSFR that has also grown exponentially is the sale of rodeo t-shirts. Despite having a multiple-window t-shirt sales booth, the line waiting for t-shirts has gotten longer and longer each year. To alleviate some of the wait for t-shirts for the anglers who come to the rodeo site by boat, the rodeo is receiving help this year from one of its sponsors to sell t-shirts near the weigh dock.

"One of our sponsors, Almost Home Portable Buildings, donated a building, and we're going to use it as a dock t-shirt booth," Glass said. "We're placing the building near the crane so that anyone who is coming by boat can get their t-shirts there and won't have to get in line at the other booth.

"One of the great things about being president is I got to design the artwork for the t-shirt. Everybody loves our t-shirts, and everybody wants this year's edition. It was awesome to work with local artist Brandon Finnorn to design this year's t-shirt."

One of the highlights of last year's rodeo was the state record tiger shark of 1,019 pounds, caught by Brett Rutledge. This year's rodeo will again feature shark categories for tiger shark and bull shark. Each shark weighed must be at least 80 inches, measured from the tip of the snout to the fork in the tail. The Gulf Hauling and Construction Shark Jackpot will also be divided into individual species.

The South Response Services King Mackerel Jackpot, Yamaha Motors Speckled Trout Jackpot and the Meadow Electric Big Game Jackpot are also available. Regular rodeo categories include 15 inshore species and 18 offshore species. Each category has a minimum size. Go to https://adsfr.com/rodeo-rules/ to find the rodeo species and minimum sizes.

As usual, the Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament will be held the Saturday (July 13) prior to the ADSFR and is available to anglers 15 years old and younger.

A project of the Mobile Jaycees, the ADSFR kicks off on Thursday, July 18, with the Captain T-Bone's Liars Contest, followed by three days of fishing competition. The big rodeo opens with a cannon blast at 5 a.m. on Friday, July 19. The ADSFR closes with another cannon blast at 5 p.m. on July 21.

ADSFR and Roy Martin tickets can be purchased at http://www.fishingchaos.com. All ADSFR tickets must be purchased before the rodeo starts, but tickets for the Roy Martin tournament can be purchased when you get to the rodeo site with your fish.

"We're excited and getting ready for the rodeo," Glass said. "It's getting here fast with the Fourth of July coming up. We'll have one more work weekend and then the Roy Martin rodeo."

 

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