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Skillful Angler Recognition Program

You can be a part of the totally NEW Skillful Angler Recognition Program recognizing anglers' talents (and luck) at catching remarkable fish in New Jersey! In 2015 the Division of Fish and Wildlife is kicking off exciting changes to the Skillful Angler Recognition Program that you want to know about! The revised program is sure to please everyone from the newest angler-young or old-to seasoned anglers with decades of experience.

Although the program's three divisions remain the same (Adult, Junior and Catch and Release), now there are several new categories creating more opportunities for qualifying fish to earn the angler a series of personalized certificates suitable for framing to commemorate your outstanding catch!

  • Specialist Angler - catch five qualifying fish of the same species within one year
  • Master Angler - catch five qualifying fish of different species within one year
  • Elite Angler - catch 10 or more qualifying fish of any species within one year
  • First Fish - catch your first fish of any species
Three additional categories may bring out your competitive nature. Personalized certificates are awarded for the Slam Series which includes:
  • Trout Slam - catch one each of qualifying rainbow, brook and brown trout within one year
  • Bass Slam - catch one each of qualifying small and largemouth bass within one year
  • Panfish Slam - catch one each of qualifying sunfish, crappie and yellow perch within one year
Special recognition isn't the only program benefit. When anglers submit their entries, data of interest to Fish and Wildlife's biologists (such as the fish's weight, length, girth and the date, time and catch location) becomes available which may reveal insights about the waterbody from where the fish was hooked or as an indicator of the condition of a particular fishery. Combined data from many anglers can create a meaningful freshwater fisheries data set.
Fluke entered in Skillful Angler Recognition Program
Click to enlarge

Every month the leader of each division/category for all species will be posted on our Skillful Angler Leader Board web page. At the end of the year, special recognition is given to anglers who catch the largest fish in each species category. The winner of each category is sent a customized certificate recognizing his or her accomplishment as the best of New Jersey's Skillful Anglers.

Through the new Skillful Angler Recognition Program, anglers statewide can commemorate their catch while supporting Fish and Wildlife's continuing fisheries monitoring efforts.

Program History:

The Skillful Angler Awards Program was introduced in 1983 to supplement the New Jersey State Record Fish Program. For more than three decades the Division has been recognizing anglers who catch fish of "not quite record" size, but large enough to have tested the angler's skill and be worthy of recognition.

Over the years the program has been updated with new categories (junior and catch-and-release in 2004) and additional eligible fish species (2004 and 2012). In 2014, the program changed again - this time in the program title, photo requirements and application form. The program is now called the Skillful Angler Recognition Program. And now in 2015 the program has been expanded to increase particiapation and excitement.

The entry form can now be completed online and printed. The signed form, along with the photographs, can be mailed to the address found on the form.

Anglers qualifying for a Skillful Angler Recognition Award receive a certificate attesting to their achievement. Only one certificate per species will be awarded annually to each applicant.

Over the years the program has gained in popularity. In 1983, the program began with 31 applicants. In 2013, 133 applications representing 24 different species were officially processed. Since the program's modest beginning, the Division has granted skillful angler status to 3,552 anglers.

"Click" to see lists of the 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 or 2013 Skillful Angler Awards winners who caught the largest fish in each of the species categories.

2015 Leader Board

Minimum Size Requirements for Skillful Angler Award:
Saltwater Species
Species Adult
Weight (lbs.)
Junior
Weight (lbs./ozs.)
Catch and Release (inches)
Black Sea Bass 4 3 20"
Striped Bass 40 36 42"
Black Drum 70 63 46"
Bluefish 18 16 33"
Cod 30 27 42"
Dolphin 30 27 n/a
Winter Flounder 2 1 lb. 8 oz 16"
Fluke 8 7 27"
Kingfish 1 8 oz 13"
Mako Shark 250 225 n/a
Blue Marlin 400 360 n/a
White Marlin 60 54 n/a
Pollock 25 22 lbs. 8 oz 41"
Tautog 8 7 22"
Albacore Tuna 50 45 n/a
Big Eye Tuna 200 180 n/a
Bluefin Tuna 500 450 n/a
Yellowfin Tuna 120 108 n/a
Tuna (other) 250 225 n/a
Weakfish 10 9 30"
Freshwater Species
Species Adult
Weight (lbs.)
Junior
Weight (lbs./ozs.)
Catch and
Release (inches)
Largemouth Bass 6 4 21"
Smallmouth Bass 4 3 19"
Striped Bass Hybrid 8 6 24"
Striped Bass 30 25 40"
Bullhead 2 1 lb. 8 oz 14"
Carp 25 20 35"
Channel Catfish 10 8 29"
Crappie 2 1 lb. 8 oz 14"
Muskellunge 20 15 40"
Yellow Perch 1 lb. 8 oz 1 13"
Chain Pickerel 4 3 24"
Northern Pike 10 8 34"
American Shad 7 5 24"
Brook Trout 3 2 19"
Brown Trout 8 5 25"
Lake Trout 12 8 31"
Rainbow Trout 5 3 lbs. 8 oz 23"
Salmon, Atlantic Landlocked 4 3 20"
Sunfish 1 12 oz 9"
Walleye 6 4 lbs. 8 oz 24"

Submitting an Application

The program is open to resident and non-resident anglers. All fish must be caught in New Jersey waters using a hook and line during legally open seasons. Saltwater species taken from a boat must have been caught from a boat that left from and returned to a New Jersey port during the same trip. Incomplete applications or species that cannot be identified will not be considered for an award. The Division reserves the right to investigate the fish identification, angling method and accuracy of measurement and weight. It also reserves the right to reject any application. All applications must be submitted within 30 days of catching the fish.

Applications for entries caught in December will not be accepted after January 31 of the following year.

Applicants are required to submit two photos. The two required photos are:

1. The fish alongside a ruler, and
2. The angler holding the fish at the catch location.
Measurements must be taken measuring from the tip of the nose (with mouth closed) to the tip of the tail. For Adult/Junior Divisions, fish must be weighed and measured by fishing license agents, tackle shops or authorized Division biologists. Applications must be signed by the person who weighed the fish and the name of the tackle shop, marina, boat or business should be identified.

Mail applications and photos to:

Skillful Angler Recognition Program
NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
605 Pequest Rd.
Oxford, NJ 07863

NEW Skillful Angler Recognition Program Application Form (pdf, 95kb)

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Last Updated: January 30, 2015