Let me say a few things about our Master Angler Award program in my blog today. . . .
First of all, yes, we are running a little behind in getting Master Angler certificates mailed out. If you sent in a Master Angler application since late summer and are wondering what happened to it, please be patient. We are working a body short here in the office right now, and had to re-order the pins we send out for catch & release Master Angler awards. Sorry for the delay. I believe we will be getting a bunch of those in the mail in the next week or two.
Secondly, let me make a comment about something I continually see on Master Angler applications. It has been a long time ago now, but we established minimum length requirements for all of the species we recognize for Master Angler awards so those fish could be immediately released and still qualify for recognition. The idea behind those minimum lengths was to minimize the amount of handling of fish that are going to be released. Simply put, the less handling, the sooner those fish are back in the water from which they came, the better the survival. So, I said all of that to say this: I know there are relatively accurate portable, digital scales available now, but DO NOT WEIGH Master Angler fish that are going to be released. All that is needed is a length measurement and weighing those fish results in more handling and reduced survival. The minimum lengths are for fish that were immediately released.
On the other hand, the minimum weight standards still apply for fish that were not released. So, if you are applying for a Master Angler award for a fish that was kept, IT MUST MEET the minimum weight and it makes no difference the length of those fish. The minimum weights are for fish that were kept.
Our Master Angler program is one of the largest angler recognition programs on the continent. We do value that program for some of the data it provides us on trophy fish, but mostly the program exists for anglers. Big fish of all species do matter to anglers, and they should be considered trophies. I will always tell any outdoorsperson that a “trophy” is what you make of it, and if you feel some fish or game you have touched were a trophy for whatever reason, it makes no difference what anyone else thinks. However, if you want to compare your notable catches to some standards of being memorable or a “trophy”, then you may want to have a Master Angler certificate to hang on the wall. Personally, catching a “Master Angler” fish was a big thing to me when I was a lot younger, and it is still a measure of success. Yep, I am all about Master Angler awards, love ’em, try to catch & release as many fish as possible that qualify for them. However, I understand if others want to define their success, their trophies, in some other manner and could not really care less about receiving Master Angler awards. To each his or her own.
The past 5 years, we have issued an average of 1,750 Master Angler awards each year. Largemouth bass consistently represent the greatest number of Master Angler awards in a year, but channel catfish were number one in 2015 and wipers in 2014. The bite for big wipers was particularly good at Swanson Reservoir in 2014, but several reservoirs produced numbers of Master Angler-size wipers that year.
I am pretty sure we have had a total of two designs for the Master Angler certificates. The first was the leaping brook trout, and we did change the color of ink from year to year with that design. The second design is the one we have currently and it consists of several species of fish, green ink, but the Game & Parks logo has changed from year to year.
In the past we had a searchable Master Angler database on our website. It had the entire Master Angler database, but it was not easy to navigate. When we converted over to an updated website, the Master Angler database went away. I have a dream that someday we will again have that available to all anglers, a searchable, user-friendly Master Angler database including all Master Angler awards since the beginning of the program. What I have discovered is that those things do not happen overnight, and Lord knows I do not have the programming skills to make it happen. I will keep campaigning for that, and dreaming.
In the meantime, think I will go fishing.