First fish a surprise for junior angler

70th annual Destin Fishing Rodeo is officially open

Tina Harbuck

Call it beginners luck or just the magic of the Destin Fishing Rodeo – either way 11-year-old Connor Yeric of Bowling Green, Kentucky, weighed in the first fish of the 70th annual event Monday morning.

“It was my first time and it was a lot of fun,” said Yeric who weighed in a 6-pound redfish in his first-ever Rodeo fishing trip.

He was fishing with family aboard Destin Inshore Guides with Capt. Josh Calhoon, who won captain of the year last year in the Charter Boat Under 25 Division.

“That fish really caught him by surprise,” Calhoon said.

Yeric caught the redfish on light spinning tackle with 12-pound test line.

As for the bait, “That’s the secret that wins,” Calhoon said.

Anyhow, Calhoon said they left the docks at 7 a.m. and timed the charter trip so they could have a chance at weighing in that first fish.

And it didn’t take long for them to hook up with some good size fish. Calhoon had gone fishing on Sunday and caught a redfish that he said could be a possible Rodeo contender. So when they went out Monday he headed to his honey hole.

Calhoon said they caught about eight or nine fish and the first over the rail would have been big enough to weigh in, but they were looking for something bigger.

After they caught a few good ones, Calhoon called Jake Brashears of For Reel Photos, who is the official photographer for the Rodeo as well as on the board of directors, to see if anybody was at the Rodeo scales yet.

Brashears, who was still at home, had no idea.

Either way, Calhoon and his group decided to call it a morning and head to the scales.

“I saw a couple of charter boats coming through the pass … so I said lets go,” Calhoon said. “We had stayed in close so we could see the other boats coming in.”

They got to the Rodeo scales located behind AJ’s Seafood and Oyster Bar about 9:30 a.m. and the fishermen walked over to the Big Red Grill for breakfast.

When the clock neared 10 a.m., there were two other groups in line to weigh in fish. However, the group from Destin Inshore Guides were front and center on the Rodeo barge as weighmaster Bruce Cheves blew the whistle to open up this year’s event.

“It was exciting and surprising,” Yeric said, noting the fish pulled pretty hard.

For his efforts, Yeric made it onto the Rodeo leaderboard for First Fish as well as a place in the Inshore Division for Redfish.

He also took home a free rod and reel, certificate and an engraved Yeti tumbler.

When asked what he’ll do with his winnings, his reply, “Use it I guess.”

By the end of the first day of the Rodeo, 88 fish had been weighed in.

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The Fishing Report with The Ships Chandler and Tina Harbuck