First fish: Kayak angler from Freeport opens 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo (PHOTOS)

Tina Harbuck
Waiting beside his blue ice chest, 18-year-old Winston Chou, pulled out a 2.8-pound speckled trout he caught aboard his kayak, Choumein, to be the first entry in the 2013 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo. Chou works at Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse at Grand Boulevard.

Inside the blue ice chest was the first fish of the 65th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo, a 2.8-pound speckled trout.

Eighteen-year-old Winston Chou, who hit the water before daylight, brought in the fish that officially opens the month-long tournament.

To see the latest catches from the rodeo, check out the Rodeo Rap.

To see all the catches from Day One, click here.

Fishing aboard his 14-foot, 6-inch Hobie Kayak tagged Choumein, Chou left his house in Freeport about 4:30 a.m. and launched off Destin in Choctawhatchee Bay. Fishing the flats specifically for trout, Chou was hoping to get something big enough to weigh in his first-ever Rodeo.

"I have no idea what time I caught the first one, but it was still dark," Chou said.

Using both Shimano and Penn tackle with 12-pound braid, Chou caught about three more trout before the big one hit.

"The sun was up when I caught the big one," Chou said. "I knew I had a big fish I could weigh and I wanted to be the first one."

At that point, he and his little brother Collin took the kayak back to the house. After he dropped his brother off at school he headed to the rodeo scales located behind AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar.

He put his blue cooler with the trout on the docks right in front of the scales at 7:20 a.m. and then the wait began.

"I was out here about two hours before anybody else showed up," Chou said. "I sat and waited. I wasn't going to leave. I wanted to be first."

About 9:15 Jeff Weitzel came walking up with a red snapper in a bucket that he caught fishing aboard the Dawn Patrol Too.

And right before the scales opened at 10 a.m. Russ Johnson of Fort Walton Beach stepped up with a redfish in a bucket that he caught kayak fishing.

After a few words from Mayor Sam Seevers thanking all those who volunteer to make the Destin Fishing Rodeo happen each year, weighmaster Bruce Cheves opened the scales and weighed up Chou's trout.

The second fish on the scales was the red snapper weighing 10.2 pounds, and the third fish was a 5.8-pound redfish caught by Johnson.

"It's going to be a busy day," said Rodeo Executive Director Helen Donaldson just minutes after the first three fish were weighed. Later in the day, a gator was even brought to the scales.

"It's already showing that the Rodeo is for everybody," she said noting that an angler doesn't have to be on a huge boat to weigh in at the Rodeo. The Rodeo has categories for anglers on paddleboards to huge private boats and everything in between.

And first-fish angler Chou, who says he's fished since he could walk, loves the challenge of fishing on a kayak.

"When the current is picking up, it's hard," he said. "But on a kayak you have easy access to shallow areas and you can also go in the Gulf and catch snapper."

Chou, who attends Northwest Florida State College, is not stopping with the first fish, he plans to get on the leaderboard in every category he can enter — even shark.

"I hope to catch the biggest shark," he said, noting he's caught a 5-footer before from his kayak, along with several red snapper.

"I'll be dead by the end of the month," said Chou. "But I can sleep all November."

The scales, located on the docks behind AJ's, are open daily from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. throughout the month of October.