Lots of anglers have been bringing in some prize catches lately, and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has a way to give them an “attaboy.”
It’s the Tennessee Angler Recognition Program, which offers fishermen an opportunity to have their catch designated an official trophy-size fish.
There is no cash award involved, just a certificate acknowledging the trophy status of the fish. The certificate features a painting of the particular species.
There are five levels of acknowledgment, topped by a Master Angler certificate and clothing patch.
The Tennessee Fishing Guide lists details about the program, how to apply, and minimum fish lengths for each species. There is no weight requirement.
For example, the minimum length for a largemouth bass to be eligible is 22 inches. The minimum for a smallmouth is 20 inches, a white bass (stripe) 18 inches, and white and black crappie 14 inches.
The smallest eligible species is the bluegill (10 inches) and the largest is the musky (40 inches.)
Twenty-six species are eligible for the program.
The length of the fish must be verified by either a witness or a photograph of the fish lying flat on top or beside a measuring rule or tape. The witness must complete the section of the application verifying the catch.
A Trophy Fish Application Form is included in the Tennessee Fishing Guide, available at most outdoors outlets. The form asks for information about when and where the fish was caught, on what type of bait-lure.
A $5 application fee must accompany each submission.
The only stipulations are that the fish must be caught in Tennessee, legally by sports-fishing means, and anglers 13 and older must be licensed fishermen and provide their license number on their application.
The Angler Recognition Program should not be confused with the TWRA’s state records which are kept for over 100 species of game fish and non-game species.
The state-record program also issues certificates and acknowledges each record by posting the name of the fisherman in the Fishing Guide, along with the date and place the catch was made.
In addition to acknowledging the anglers’ accomplishment, the TWRA can use the data to keep track of size rates of the various species.
The records also allow fishermen to compare their catches to the biggest on record. If you catch an especially large crappie, for example, you can check the Fishing Guide to see how it compares to the state record crappie.
If the catch surpasses the existing state record, there is information in the Guide about how to submit it for record consideration.
If the catch is impressive but not quite a record-breaker, it could still qualify for an Angler Recognition Program award. A trophy certificate and attractive print to hang on the wall is a good way to commemorate a great day on the water.