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Red Drum Returns to ADSFR Lineup
By DAVID RAINER
Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
The Alabama Deep Sea Fishing Rodeo (ADSFR) will swap one “red” fish for another for its 80th annual competition July 19-21 at Dauphin Island.
Although the red snapper had been an integral part of the rodeo for many decades, the red snapper season closed just before the rodeo in 2012 and well before this year’s event.
The other “red” fish is red drum (more commonly known as redfish), a species that had been hammered by the purse-seine fishery and the popularity of Chef Paul Prudhomme’s blackened redfish. Because of the pressure on red drum, the rodeo [INVALID]ped it as an official category in the 1990s.
Now the redfish stocks have recovered and rodeo officials decided it was time to bring the popular inshore species back to the regular competition list of 30 fish.
“The changes we are making this year are in response to losing red snapper as a category,” said 2013 Rodeo President Chris Hankins. “We lost a fair amount of fishermen last year, about 500 tickets, which we felt was largely due to the loss of reef fish in the tournament.
“What we’ve tried to do is reach out to other markets, like the kayak anglers, which traditionally haven’t been a huge part of our tournament. We’d like them to become a big part of the rodeo, because they are a different set of fishermen and a large set of fishermen. It’s really a growing sport. And we tried to drive more big-game anglers into the cash prize division. But, for the guy who has been fishing the rodeo for 20 or 30 years, we tried to the keep all those things in place so the tournament would look the same.”
Hankins said returning redfish to the category list was a no-brainer, especially with the mounting scientific evidence the species is again healthy.
“For a couple of years, marine scientists have been doing a study with us on bull redfish, fish over 26 inches,” he said. “This year, the scientists felt it was time to put redfish back in as a regular category. It will be for redfish from 16 to 26 inches, and the heaviest weight gets it.”
The Crown Royal Big Game Cash Prize Division will include all species involved in jackpots. Cash prize division tickets are only available at the rodeo site.
“The cash prize division is over and above everything that’s always been in the rodeo,” Hankins said. “We’ve got the regular prize categories. Then we’ve got the regular jackpots for speckled trout, king mackerel and big game. Above that, for the big game, speckled trout and king mackerel fishermen, you can step up into monetary amount categories. Each category is basically a tournament unto itself. Say somebody wants to fish for tuna in the $500 cash division, they’ll fish against the other boats in that division. There is a ticket to get into each division.”
The big game division is comprised of five categories – tuna, wahoo, dolphin, swordfish and billfish (marlin and sailfish). The billfish category is scored in two ways, catch-and-release and a point per pound for billfish that are at least 110 inches in length (measured from tip of lower jaw to fork of tail). Each catch-and-release blue marlin is awarded 500 points.
“Fishermen wanted the ability to bring in a trophy fish, so we gave them that option,” Hankins said. “With the 110-inch minimum, scientists estimate that fish will weigh from 450 to 550 pounds, so a catch-and-release fish could potentially score more than a fish brought to the scales.”
There is a new category inside the speckled trout jackpot that will appeal to anglers who don’t have a motor for propulsion. The Fairhope Boat Company is sponsoring the special category that will include everyone from kayakers to bank fishermen.
“Whatever the vessel – kayak, sailboat or bathtub – it can’t have a motor when it leaves shore or returns,” Hankins said. “They will be entered to win one of three kayaks. Those fishermen will also be eligible to win the cash prizes within the jackpot. It will be a ticket [INVALID]ion. When you buy the jackpot ticket, you will tell the outlet that you want the ‘No Motor’ division. We did that for kayak anglers, but we also included the guys who fish off the dock.”
The speckled trout jackpot rules have changed. In the past, the jackpot was a “boat” ticket that required at least two anglers per boat. The new jackpot is a per person ticket with no minimum required to accommodate those anglers who fish alone. The king mackerel and big game jackpots remain “boat” tickets.
The Bob Shipp ADFSR weigh station, which was named after the longtime rodeo judge, is a brand new facility with 1,500 square feet for the weigh-in area and a 1,500-square-foot observation deck for rodeo officials, press and sponsors.
“We shifted the new weigh station north about 30 feet and left the slab of the old weigh station and fenced around it,” Hankins said. “From the spectator side, they’ll be allowed more viewing area. They’ll be right next to the area where the fish are coming to the weigh station. It gives them more area to stand and see the docks. We felt like we accomplished two things. We improved the experience for the people weighing fish, but we also improved the experience for the spectators who just want to come down and see the tournament happen.
“Bill Phillips, an architect on the island, designed it for us. We feel like it turned out very well, and hopefully it will make it much quicker to weigh fish so we can avoid those long lines.”
Gene Fox, the rodeo’s publicity official, added, “What we did was we made the fish viewing area larger and made it perpendicular to the weigh station. People can now get around the box on three sides.”
Fox said the rodeo officials also took the advice of scientists and lowered the minimum sizes on several species, the most notable being speckled trout at 16 inches.
“We feel that gives an opportunity for weekend warriors to weigh a fish and get a chance to win a boat.” Fox said.
Anyone who enters a legal fish in the tournament will be entered into a random drawing for a Contender boat, Yamaha outboard and Loadmaster trailer. A Carolina Skiff boat, Yamaha outboard and Loadmaster trailer will be awarded in a random drawing from among the speckled trout jackpot participants. King mackerel jackpot participants will be entered in a drawing for a Honda ATV and Tag Heuer watch, while big game jackpot entrants will be entered in a random drawing for a Raymarine Sonar/GPS unit.
“We’ve got a ton of sponsors coming in that are going to make the rodeo area a really interactive site where they can look at new products and find out what’s going on in the fishing industry,” Hankins said. “The Billfish Foundation is also coming up to hand out educational material.”
Rodeo festivities kick off with the Roy Martin Young Anglers Tournament on July 13 at the rodeo site. Anglers 15 years and younger will compete in 31 fish categories. All proceeds will go to the Mobile Jaycees Children’s Christmas Shopping Tour.
Following the kids’ rodeo, the next event will be the captain’s meeting at 4:30 on Thursday, July 18. Cash prize participants will have an additional reception following the meeting. The Liar’s Contest is scheduled to start after the reception. The tournament fishing kicks off at 5 a.m. on Friday, July 19. Visit www.adsfr.com for more information.