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Interest still high for Deep Sea Rodeo

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With the nation’s economy dangling on the verge of a recession, Brian Johnston remains hopeful that saltwater anglers haven’t had to raid their savings designated for the 76th annual Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo, scheduled for July 18-20 at the rodeo site on Dauphin Island.

“I was a little worried at first, but I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback lately,” said Johnston, president of the 2008 rodeo, the largest and oldest saltwater tournament in the nation. “People are calling every day to inquire about rules and any changes.

“I believe people will fish the rodeo. I’ve been talking to people from Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee and even Arizona who normally fish with us, and all of them said they would be there. They said this is one of the tournaments that they don’t miss because of the prize package and the way the tournament is run. So I’m hopeful everybody else feels the same way.”

The rodeo awards package will again top the $400,000 mark. As usual, a 21-foot Contender boat, Yamaha outboard, Loadmaster trailer and Performance Towers T-Top will be given away in a random drawing among rodeo participants who weigh in a legal fish during the event. The Paradise Marine/Scout Boats King Mackerel Jackpot is split into open and recreational categories. The open division pays cash from first through 10th place with the winner guaranteed $15,000, while the top boat in the 23-foot and under division also receives a cash payout determined by the number of entries. The recreational division also pays first through 10th, based on the number of entries. Also, a 17-foot Scout 175 Sportfish boat, Yamaha outboard and Loadmaster trailer will be awarded in a random drawing among jackpot entrants who weigh in a legal king mackerel.

The Yamaha Outboard Speckled Trout Jackpot pays cash prizes for first through third place, and all jackpot anglers who weigh in a legal fish will be entered in a random drawing for a 150-hp Yamaha four-stroke.

For those anglers who prefer fishing far into the Gulf of Mexico, the Boater’s World Big Game Jackpot pays cash for the largest tuna (yellowfin or blackfin), dolphin and wahoo. A Team SIMCO and IMM boatlift will be awarded in a random drawing among jackpot anglers who weigh in a legal fish.

For the second year in a row, the rodeo has decided not to have a Spanish mackerel jackpot because of a localized depletion of the Spanish stocks in Alabama waters. However, Spanish mackerel continues to be one of the 30 regular fish categories in the rodeo.

Other rodeo inshore categories are: blackfish (tripletail), bluefish, blue runner (hardtail), jack crevalle, black drum, flounder, gafftopsail catfish, gray snapper, ladyfish, Florida pompano, sheepshead, speckled trout, tarpon and white trout.

The offshore categories include: amberjack, barracuda, blackfin tuna, bonita, dolphin, gray triggerfish, grouper (black, gag or red), king mackerel, ling (cobia), red snapper, scamp, shark, vermilion snapper (beeliner), wahoo and yellowfin tuna.

The tarpon winners will be determined by a points system – 125 points for each catch and release fish (video evidence required) and one point per pound for each fish weighed at the dock. A $50 permit is required to keep any tarpon, and permits will be checked for any fish brought to the weigh dock. Tournament designators will be made available July 17 at the rodeo site.

Johnston said rule No. 1 in the rodeo brochure states that a copy of the rules shall be kept aboard each boat and available to each participant. Each participant shall read and thoroughly familiarize him or herself with these rules. Any participant who violates any rules of the ADSFR, whether intentional or not, could possibly disqualify the participant and all other participants aboard the boat. A disqualification shall prevent a participant from collecting prizes for fish registered.

As usual, the rodeo festivities kicked into gear with the 51st annual Roy Martin Young Anglers on July 12. The event, which was open to young anglers 15 years old and younger, had a $3 entry fee, and all proceeds went to the Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour, sponsored by the Mobile Jaycees. The Jaycees used proceeds from the ADSFR to donate $27,000 to the University of South Alabama Marine Sciences Department to fund research and scholarships for graduate students.

The weigh station for the big rodeo, which attracted a record number (3,306) of anglers for last year’s event, will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on July 18-19 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 20.

“The last two years we’ve had neap tides during the rodeo, and it’s not going to be that way this year,” Johnston said. “That should mean better fishing. It’s going to be hard to top (last year’s record), especially with the economy. But I’m hopeful, especially with the tides we’re going to have.”