This year marks the 33rd anniversary of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Skillful Angler Program. For more than three decades the Division has been recognizing anglers who catch fish trophy-sized fish in each of the freshwater and marine species categories.
The Skillful Angler Recognition Program is designed to supplement the New Jersey State Record Fish Program. In January 2015, new categories were added to create more opportunities for qualifying fish to earn the angler a series of personalized certificates:
- Specialist Angler – catch five qualifying fish of the same species within one year
- Master Angler – catch five qualifying fish of five different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one year
- Elite Angler – catch 10 or more qualifying fish of 10 different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one year
- First Fish – catch your first fish of any species
Three additional categories (the Slam Series) include:
- Trout Slam – catch one each of rainbow, brook and brown trout
- Bass Slam – catch one each of small and largemouth bass
- Panfish Slam – catch one each of sunfish, crappie and yellow perch
In 1983, the program began with 31 applicants. In 2015, 96 applications representing 21 different species were officially processed. Since the program’s modest beginning, the Division has granted skillful angler status to 3,701 applicants.
Some of this year’s notable catches include:
Brown Trout – 9 lbs, 11 oz. caught by Francis G. Barrett of North Bergen on July 11. Francis was fishing from a kayak on Lake Aeroflex when he landed the fish at 4:45 pm. Ten pound test was used with an Ugly Stik rod and a spin casting reel. A herring served as the bait. The fish measured 27.5 inches in length. Girth was unknown.
Atlantic Landlocked Salmon – 4 lbs, 0 oz. caught by Charles McBride of Budd Lake on May 14. Charles was fishing from the shore at Tilcon Lake when he landed the fish at 7:30 pm. Six pound test was used with an Ugly Stik rod and a spinning reel. A gold Kastmaster served as the lure. The fish measured 23 inches in length and had an 12 inch girth.
Tautog – 23 lbs, 0 oz. caught by Shane Burke of Holmdel on January 29. Shane was fishing from a boat out of Cape May when he landed the fish at 2:00 pm. Fifty pound test was used with a custom rod with a Newell reel. A white crab was the bait. The fish measured 30 inches in length and had an 24.5 inch girth.
Muskellunge – 53 inches caught by Shawn McCardell of Thurmont, MD on November 15. Shawn was fishing from a boat on Oxford Furnace Lake when he reeled in the fish at 1:15 pm. Eighty pound braid was used with a rod and an Abu Garcia reel.
Chain Pickerel – 27 inches caught by Larry Newman of Brick on December 14. Larry was fishing from a kayak on Lake Riviera when he landed the fish at 3:00 pm. Fifteen pound test was used with a TFO rod and a Quantum reel. A 4″ Rapala Xrap was used as the lure.
Rainbow Trout – 23.5 inches caught by Kevin Kennedy of Mount Ephraim on April 7. Kevin was fishing from the shore at Westville Lake when he landed the fish at 5:00 pm. Six pound test was used with a spinning rod and reel. Powerbait attracted the fish.
Walleye – 27.5 inches caught by Michael Kolodziej of Bound Brook on December 20. Michael was fishing from a boat on the Delaware River when he reeled in the fish at 8:00 am. Ten pound test was used with a 7′ St. Croix rod and a spinning reel. A shad served as the bait. Girth was unknown.
Click the link for a full list of the 2015 New Jersey Skillful Angler Award Winners.