LITTLE ROCK — Late winter and early spring are typically the best times of year to hook into big fish. While only one catch can qualify as Arkansas’s state record for a certain species, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s Master Angler program is a great way to recognize all of your trophy catches.
To qualify an angler must catch a fish meeting or surpassing the weight standard for that species. This in itself is an accomplishment, as the standards are high. There are eight categories: black bass, bream, catfish, crappie, perch, temperate bass, trout and miscellaneous species. For each trophy fish that reaches or exceeds a minimum size for a species, an angler receives a commemorative pin. The program is open to any age angler, whether an Arkansan or a non-resident; 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 walleye needs to tip the scales starting at 9 pounds. A full list of species and starting trophy size is available at www.agfc.com/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 www.agfc.com/masterangler to obtain each pin. A photo of the angler and the trophy fish must be included with the application. Applicants also may call 501-22-6428 and receive a brochure and application by mail.
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.