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Georgia’s Big-Fish Recognition Programs

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GON’s Lake and River Records announces it is now accepting and compiling record fish from PFAs. Also, DNR has two great programs that recognize anglers for their catches.

GON and DNR offer opportunities for anglers to set records and receive rewards for their achievements.

Do you love the rush of competitive tournament fishing? I still remember the adrenaline rush and highs of being in a tourney, that extra drive and aggressiveness it spawns for that coveted spot at the weigh-in. Casting and reeling like a mad man, you’ll drag the paint off your lure trying to trigger strikes. There’s something about a tournament that pushes you that extra mile.

However, not all anglers tournament fish or have the time or finances to do so. So, how do you add that element of competition to a normal fishing trip that will enhance the overall experience? Read on.

There are several programs in Georgia that I believe really enhance the experience of a simple day of fishing. Having an added goal of breaking a record or earning a certificate of recognition can certainly jump-start the entire trip.

Steve Dehart, of Oakman, caught this Lake Yonah yellow perch on Feb. 24, 2017. Steve has the lake record with the 2-lb., 1-oz. fish.

Unlike fishing tournaments, there are no entry fees, and you can fish the days that are good for you. If the weather is bad, just pick another day or another place. River high? Lake muddy? Go elsewhere. Fish whichever hours are convenient for you. Losses won’t hurt as bad, and you’ll have more money at the end of the day. I think you’ll find it a lot more relaxing.

Below are three opportunities to consider before your next fishing trip.

GON’s Georgia Lake & River Records: The compilation of lake and river records was started by GON more than 25 years ago and new records are maintained by GON. The records are listed each year in the February issue of GON and will soon be online to view 24/7.

You’ll see in last month’s issue that 21 new records have been added to the list since February 2017. These are records that were either broken or new species that were added to a particular lake or river.

Even with the popularity of the list, there are still species openings on great places to fish. For example, there’s not even a catfish listed for the Ohoopee River or Lake Seminole.

With GON’s upcoming online version of Georgia Lake & River Records, they are now willing to expand the number of lakes and rivers they keep records for. GON just announced they are ready to add record fish for all of Georgia’s PFAs. If you don’t see your favorite body of water listed in the February issue, call GON. They may be willing to start keeping records for it, too.

Call GON if you have questions about what size fish it’ll take to get your name on the list.

Below are the requirements for certifying record fish for GON’s list:

• Fish must be caught legally by rod and reel in a manner consistent with state game and fish regulations.

• Catch must be weighed on accurate Georgia DOA certified scales with at least two witnesses present.

• Witnesses to the weighing must be at least 18 years old, and they must not be members of the angler’s immediate family nor have a close personal relationship with the angler.

• In many cases, the species of fish must be positively identified by a qualified fisheries biologist.

• Call GON at (800) 438-4663.

 WRD’s Angler Award Program: This state-run program awards anglers who meet or beat a certain

Keegan Hohenstein took his Lake Juliette bowfin to Buck Creek Market and had it weighed on their certified scales. The 7-lb., 5.76-oz. fish is now the lake record.

length or weight for specific species of fish.

According to WRD’s website, “Catching a big fish is always a thrill and usually requires exceptional fishing skill. Each year WRD recognizes the achievement of anglers who catch ‘trophy’ fish (by weight or length) by presenting the angler with an Angler Award. The fish does not have to be a new state record to qualify.’’

The program runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. Applications must be received no later than Jan. 15 of the year following the catch.

On the website, you can download an application form. There is also a minimum weight/length list. This is a great program with no major hurdles.

Anglers who are successful and submit all the required information will receive a personalized certificate, hat and recognition on the WRD website.

Georgia Bass Slam: A new WRD program rewards anglers who catch at least five of 10 eligible black bass species in Georgia in a calendar year.

According to WRD’s website, “The idea behind the Georgia Bass Slam is to recognize anglers with the knowledge and skill to catch five different species of black bass in a variety of habitats across the state and to stimulate interest in the conversation and management of black bass and their habitats.’’

The longnose gar record for the Etowah River belongs to Darren Sexton. He caught this 9-lb., 10.88-oz. fish on April 15, 2017.

Anglers who are successful and submit all the required information will receive a personalized certificate, two passes to the Go Fish Education Center, stickers and be entered in a drawing for a grand prize. You will also be recognized on WRD’s website, at the Go Fish Education Center and through a variety of social-media platforms.

The 10 types of black bass species along with their identifications and the locations they are commonly found are described on the website.

I’m going to print off the information of all three of these recognition programs, put it in one large office envelope and store in my vehicle. Before fishing, study all the info so you can act accordingly when you catch a fish.

These big-fish recognition programs provide anglers with a great way of documenting a wonderful memory. I also find this a great way to introduce our kids to an exciting challenge. They would be very proud of a certificate hanging on the wall next to their mounted fish or photo.

If you miss the competitiveness in bass tournaments, the bar has been set through these programs, so take it up a notch. God bless your safety, and hope to see ya on the water!

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