Last year Gail Jaroniewski didn't make the leader board for the Destin Fishing Rodeo until the last day.
However, this year things are already looking up for Jaroniewski.
About 15 minutes before the scales were to open Sunday morning for the 69th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, Jaroniewski walked up with not just one, but two fish to weigh.
She weighed in a 2-pound redfish for the first official entry of the 2017 Rodeo and a 1-pound speckled trout that made it on the board in the Inshore Division.
Jaroniewski, who lives in Fort Walton Beach, had made up her mind the night before to go out and try to get that first fish to weigh in at the Rodeo. The Destin Fishing Rodeo is a month-long fishing tournament that takes place every October with thousands of anglers casting a line and fish being weighed daily on the docks behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.
“I set my alarm for 3 … and I thought am I really going to do this,” she said.
She did and it paid off quick, almost too quick.
Fishing under the Brooks Bridge, she landed a speckled trout about 4:30 a.m.
“It was too early so I decided to keep fishing,” she said, noting the scales at the Rodeo didn’t open until 10 a.m.
She moved around to Garnier Bayou in Shalimar and caught a few mangrove snapper but they weren’t big enough.
Fish have to weigh at least 1 pound to be considered an official entry for the Destin Fishing Rodeo.
Jaroniewski finally caught a good size redfish that was in the slot limit – 18 to 26 inches.
She still had a little time, and the bite was picking up so she snagged one more. She landed a 29-inch redfish, which she had to toss back, but not before snapping a few photos. However, at that point it was time to head to Destin and to the scales located behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar.
She said she used live bait and shrimp to lure in the trout and cut bait on the redfish. Both were caught on light tackle with about 8 pound test line, she said.
For her efforts she was recognized by Destin Mayor Scott Fischer who was on hand to officially open up the Destin Fishing Rodeo and she was awarded an engraved tumbler.
As for the fish, she planned to have them for dinner, but not before heading back out for a little more fishing.