It may not have been the youngsters first time, but it was evident they had a big time as cries of "I've got one, I've got one," rang out time after time at the 3rd annual Kid's Fish Camp offered by the Destin Community Center.
With rod and reel in hand, more than 15 kids along with city staff and helpers lined the dock behind AJ's Seafood and Oyster Bar on a recent morning.
When asked if they had fished before, almost every youngster raised their hand. Some said they had caught red snapper, Spanish mackerel, redfish, hardhead catfish and a small ray. As for 5-year-old Mykean Pope, she said she's just caught "regular fish."
But when it was all said and done at Fish Camp, Mykean can now add croaker, pinfish and pufferfish to her "regular fish" list.
Prior to dropping their lines in the water, Tim Lemons of Red Light Bait Company, who donated the bait for the event, gave the kids a few pointers on how to catch a fish.
"You've got to get the bait all the way to the bottom," he said. "Then you've got to wait, wait, wait … then BAM" he yelled, it's fish on.
Lemons explained to the kids how to hold the spinning rods, so as to try and stay untangled and not get hurt with the hook.
"You should always have the pole in your strong hand," he told the kids.
Once out on the docks, the kids remembered about the rod in the strong hand, but not so much about letting the bait go to the bottom, as you could see the bait up in the water. However, after a couple of the kids let the bait reach bottom, it was a fish feeding frenzy.
Nick Kasch, 6, hanging on to the rod could barely reel in a pinfish. His smile widened as he pulled in the fish. After he let the fish go, Kasch dropped the bait back down and hooked another one. This time he was hanging on, but whatever it was, broke the line.
"Maybe it was a baby shark," he said. After hooking up with two or three fish, Kasch said, "I don't know why fish always get close to me."
Not seconds later, William Irvine, 8 1/2, cried out "I've got one, I've got one," as his rod was bent over with a big pinfish. It wasn’t long before Irvine's one, turned into about six fish.
Gavin Bartlett, 6, caught the most unusual fish of the morning a spadefish, while Mykean Pope pulled in a pufferfish. Early on, Pope who had already caught three fish said, "I think I'm going to catch four." Her predictions came true and then some as she pulled in more than five.
After each child had reeled in multiple fish, they enjoyed watermelon on the docks behind AJ's, and each child got to take home their rod and reel.