LITTLE ROCK – A quick glance at Arkansas’s state fishing records will reveal that March and April hold the lion’s share of biggest fish catches for most species. Only one catch can qualify as Arkansas’s state record for a certain species, but the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission still wants to help celebrate those memorable moments on the water with a Master Angler Award.
Created in 1985, the Master Angler Award program recognizes fish caught throughout the state by hook-and-line that meet certain size requirements, which are different by species. There are eight categories: black bass, bream, catfish, crappie, perch, temperate bass, trout and miscellaneous species. For each trophy fish that reaches or exceeds the minimum size for that species, an angler receives a commemorative pin. The program is open to any age angler, whether an Arkansan or a nonresident; the only requirement is that the fish be caught in Arkansas waters.
For example, anglers who catch a largemouth bass of at least 8 pounds or a smallmouth or a spotted bass of 3.5 pounds are eligible for a trophy pin. Crappie trophy size begins at 2.5 pounds for black or white crappie. Brown trout starts at 10 pounds; rainbow at 8. A striped bass needs to tip the scales at the 25-pound mark. A full list of species and starting trophy size is available at https://www.agfc.com/en/fishing/masterangler.
If an angler catches a trophy in each of four or more different categories, he or she is a “Master Angler” and will receive a commemorative coin. Very few anglers ever meet this challenge. In fact, only a handful of Master Angler coins were awarded last year.
Anglers must submit a Master Angler application, available at https://www.agfc.com/en/fishing/masterangler to obtain each pin. A photo of the angler and the trophy fish must be included with the application.
There is no limit to the number of Master Angler awards or pins an angler may earn. If an angler prefers to fish for one species, such as trophy-size crappie, he or she can rack up all the pins he or she can claim, but the “Master Angler” coin only goes to anglers who qualify for four different categories of fish.
Top photo: Anglers can earn a pin and special recognition for catching fish large enough to qualify for a Master Angler Award.