New program recognizes anglers
Alabama anglers who land a &8220;whopper&8221; freshwater fish will soon be recognized by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources under a new program that goes into effect January 1.
The Fisheries Section of the Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division will unveil its Angler Recognition Program, which will highlight the achievements of freshwater fishermen, as well as maintain records in three categories &045; the state’s 43 reservoirs, 20 state public fishing lakes and private ponds.
Cook said the expanded records program would start with black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, spotted and redeye) with the intent to include other species later.
The good news for anglers is that there is more to the program than records. Anglers can be recognized for catching a certain size fish. The size of the fish will determine whether the angler receives a Master or Trophy designation. Plus, the Master and Trophy recognition won’t be limited to black bass. It will also include black and white crappie; striped, white and hybrid bass; blue, channel and flathead catfish; redear and bluegill sunfish; walleye and sauger.
Damon Abernethy, the reservoir management biologist in charge of the program, said the achievement levels could be different for each body of water. &8220;This is something the fishermen have wanted for a long time &045; particularly keeping lake records,&8221; Abernethy said. &8220;It gets to be a pretty big task for all the species. As far as lake records are concerned, we’re going to go with just black bass. As soon as we get that established, we’re going to look at other species.&8221;
For the Master and Trophy certifications, an application form must be filled out and returned to Abernethy. Applications will be available online at www.outdooralabama.com, at all WFF district offices, and at many sporting goods stores as well.
All fish must be caught from Alabama waters. Anglers must possess a valid Alabama fishing license (anglers under 16 and over 65 are exempt from that rule). The application, which must be completed in full and witnessed, must be returned within 90 days of the catch along with a photograph with a side view of fish next to a ruler or yardstick. The photo must be of high enough quality to determine which species it is. Anglers are also urged to include a second photo of the angler with fish to be posted on outdooralabama.com. A photocopy of the angler’s fishing license, where applicable, must also be included. Anglers are also urged to fill out catch data on the back of the application.
For the Master and Trophy certification, fish may also be presented for recognition by length for those anglers who prefer to catch and release. &8220;The lengths will correspond with weights,&8221; Abernethy said. &8220;For instance, an eight-pound bass is 23 inches and a 10-pounder is 25 inches for largemouth’s.&8221;
In the lake records category, private ponds will be one category while each of the 43 reservoirs and 20 state public fishing lakes will be separate. The application process for lake records is also considerably more stringent. Lake records must meet either the Master or Trophy designation for a particular body of water. A fisheries biologist must verify fish that are submitted for a lake record. The application must be notarized also.
Line-class records recognized by the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) will be accepted, but an application must still be submitted for each fish.
Anglers whose applications are approved will receive certificates suitable for framing as well as decals for their boat or truck. Each angler will be recognized in the B.A.I.T. (Bass Anglers Information Team) report. The catch statistics will also be published in the B.A.I.T. report. Certificates and decals will be mailed quarterly.
The new program also includes what bass fishermen would consider the ultimate in their sport &045; the Black Bass Grand Slam. &8220;Any angler who qualifies in either the master or trophy level for all four species of black bass will receive the Black Bass Grand Slam plaque,&8221; Abernethy. &8220;That’s going to be quite an accomplishment.&8221;
All applications must be mailed to Damon Lee Abernethy, Reservoir Management Biologist, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, 64 N. Union St., Suite 551, Montgomery, AL 36130.
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