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2017 Skillful Angler Recognition Program Winners

 

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife's Skillful Angler 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 in each of the freshwater and marine species categories.

The Skillful Angler Recognition Program is designed to supplement the New Jersey State Record Fish Program. Significant changes were made in January of 2015. Although the program's three divisions remained the same (Adult, Junior, and Catch and Release), there are now categories creating more opportunities for qualifying fish to earn the angler a series of personalized certificates:

  • Specialist Angler - catch five qualifying fish of the same species within one year
  • Master Angler - catch five qualifying fish of five different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one year
  • Elite Angler - catch 10 or more qualifying fish of 10 different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one year
  • First Fish - catch your first fish of any species
Three additional categories (the Slam Series) include:
  • Trout Slam - catch one each of rainbow, brook and brown trout
  • Bass Slam - catch one each of small and largemouth bass
  • Panfish Slam - catch one each of sunfish, crappie and yellow perch
In 1983, the program began with 31 applicants. In 2017, 120 applications representing 20 different species were officially processed from 51 individuals. Since the program's modest beginning, the Division has granted skillful angler status to 3,950 anglers.

INTERESTING FACTS:

The most frequently entered species by skillful anglers in 2017 (adult, junior, and catch and release divisions combined) were crappie with 27 applications, followed by chain pickerel with 19 applications.

The following is a breakdown of applications received per species (all categories combined):

Freshwater:
Largemouth Bass (11), Smallmouth Bass (6), Striped Bass Hhybrid (2), bullhead (3), Carp (1), Crappie (27), Muskellunge (1), Yellow Perch (13), Chain Pickerel (19), Northern Pike (3), Rainbow Trout (2), Atlantic Landlocked Salmon (3), Sunfish (15), and Walleye (7).

Saltwater:
Striped Bass (1), Bluefish (6), Winter Flounder (1), Fluke (1), Tautog (1), and Mako Shark (1).

In 2017, no entries were received for Striped Bass - freshwater, Channel Catfish, American Shad, Brook Trout, Lake Trout, Black Sea Bass, Black Drum, Cod, Dolphin, Kingfish, Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Pollock, Albacore Tuna, Big Eye Tuna, Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, and Tuna (other) and Weakfish.

The catch and release division had the most number of entries with 119 applications, followed by the adult categories with four applications and the juniors with one application.

The 2017 Skillful Angler Winners are as follows:

ADULT CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:

Rainbow Trout - 5 lbs, 13 oz caught by Jason Petecca of Newton on April 21. Jason was fishing from the shore of the Pequest River on Alphano Rd. in Allamuchy when he landed the fish. Four pound test was used wiith a Kunnan rod and a Shimano reel. Power Bait served as the attractant. The length measured 22.75 inches and the girth measured 14 inches.

ADULT CATEGORY SALTWATER SPECIES:

Striped Bass - Saltwater - 57.08 lbs caught by Art Eromenek on May 23. Art was fishing from the surf at Ship Bottom when he landed the fish at 4:30 pm. Thirty-pound braid was used with an 8'6" St. Croix rod and a Stradic 8000 reel. A bunker served as the bait. The fish measured 51.75 inches in length and had a 30-inch girth.

Tautog - 8 lbs, 1.44 oz caught by John Howell of Forked River on December 2. John was fishing from a boat on the Garden State North Reef when he landed the fish at 1:30 pm. Fifty pound test was used with a custom rod with a Newell reel. A Jonah crab was the bait. The fish measured 23.5 inches in length and had an 18-inch girth.

Mako Shark - 537 lbs caught by Vincent Fahrion of Matawan on June 1. Vincent was fishing off a boat at the Mud Hole when he landed the fish. Hundred pound test was used with a custom bogan with an Avet 50W reel. A bluefish fillet served as the lure. The fish measured 108.75 inches in length.

JUNIOR CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:

Rainbow Trout - 6 lbs, 4 oz. caught by Cole Hanisak of Phillipsburg on April 8. Cole was fishing from the shore of Pohatcong Creek when he caught the fish at 5:45 pm. Six pound test was used with a spinning rod and reel. A spinner served as the lure. The fish measured 24 inches in length and had a 13-inch girth.

CATCH AND RELEASE CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:

Largemouth Bass - 22.75 inches caught by Kevin Kennedy of Mt. Ephraim on April 27. Kevin was fishing from the shore on Greenwich Lake when he reeled the fish in at 2:00 pm. Twenty pound braid was used with a spinning rod and reel. A rubber worm served as the lure. The girth was unknown.

Smallmouth Bass - 21 inches caught by John Vojt of Phillipsburg on November 8. John was fishing from a kayak on Merrill Creek Reservoir when he reeled the fish in at 3:00 pm. Fifteen pound braid was used with a G. Loomis rod and a Shimano Core reel. The Binsky served as the lure. The girth was unknown.

Striped Bass Hybrid - 25 1/8 inches caught by Christopher Pereira of Hopatcong on June 9. Christopher was fishing from a boat on Lake Hopatcong when he reeled in the fish at 1:00 am. Twelve pound test was used with a Shimano rod and an Ardent C-force reel. A bent minnow served as the lure. The girth was unknown.

Bullhead - 16.5 inches caught by Tony DiLella of Deptford on October 1. Tony was fishing from the shore on a local pond when he reeled in the fish at 6:30 pm. Eight pound test was used with an Ugly Stik rod and a KingKast Baitrun reel. A crawler harness served as the bait. Girth was 16.5 inches.

Crappie - 16 5/8 inches caught by Arthur Huttemeyer, Sr. of Budd Lake on May 12. Arthur was fishing from the shore of Lake Hopatccong when he reeled in the fish at 5:00 pm. Eight pound test was used with an UglyStik rod and a Pflueger reel. A jig was used to attract the fish. Girth was unknown.

Salmon, Landlocked - 21 inches caught by Patrick Gallagher of Garden City on April 30. Patrick was fishing from a kayak on Tilcon Lake when he reeled in the fish at 11:30 am. Six pound test was used with an St. Croix rod and a Penn reel. A Rapala was used to attract the fish. Girth was unknown.

Muskellunge - 52.75 inches caught by John Selser of Pompton Plains on June 19. John was fishing from a boat on Greenwood Lake when he reeled in the fish at 4:48 pm. Sixty-five pound test was used with a St. Croix rod and a Daiwa reel. Brotherhood bait (Wake-Up Call) served as the lure. The girth was unknown.

Yellow Perch - 15.5 inches caught by Duane Chapman of Lake Hopatcong on September 11. Duane was fishing from a boat on Merrill Creek Reservoir when he reeled in the fish at 6:03 pm. Eight pound test line was used with a Shimano rod and an Ardent C-Force reel. A shad rap attracted the fish. The girth was unknown.

Chain Pickerel - 27 inches caught by Gary Ward of Brick on January 25. Gary was fishing from a kayak on Lake Riviera when he landed the fish at 11:47 am. Ten pound power pro was used with a Falcon Bucoo rod and a Shimano Stradic C14 reel. A Rapala was used as the lure. Girth was unknown.

Northern Pike - 37 inches caught by Walt Paulson of Gurnee, IL on August 1. Walt was fishing from a boat on Budd Lake when he landed the fish at 11:00 am. Thirty pound test power pro was used with a G. Loomis rod and a Daiwa Luna 300 reel. A Mepps Muskie Killer served as the lure. The girth was unknown.

Carp - 35 inches caught by George Horvath of Trenton on May 5. George was fishing from the shore on the Millstone River when he landed the fish at 6:49 pm. Twelve pound test was used with a spinning rod and reel. Cornmeal attracted the fish. Girth was 26 inches.

Sunfish - 10 inches caught by Matthew Huff of Westfield on April 30. Matthew was fishing from a boat on Ryker Lake when he reeled in the fish at 2:50 pm. Eight pound test was used with a 7' ultralight rod and a spinning reel. A 1/16 ounce jig served as the lure. Girth was unknown.

Walleye - 29.25 inches caught by Ryan Pier of Haledon on June 22. Ryan was fishing from a boat on Greenwood Lake when he reeled in the fish at 6:43 pm. 65-pound test was used with an St. Croix rod and an Okuma reel. A 10 inch Believer served as the lure. Girth was unknown.

CATCH AND RELEASE CATEGORY SALTWATER SPECIES:

Fluke - 27.75 inches caught by John McGeown of Nutley on August 22. John was fishing from a boat, The Fisherman, when he landed the fish at 9:00 am. 14 pound braid with 20 pound fluorocarbon leader was used with a Daiwa Saltist 6'6 rod and a Saltist LW conventional reel. A Berkeley swimming mullet 3 inch in pear white served as the lure. Girth was unavailable.

Bluefish - 40 inches caught by Frank Ruczynski of Monroeville on May 4. Frank was fishing from a boat in Barnegat Bay when he landed the fish at 9:00 am. Fifteen pound test was used with a G. Loomis NRX rod and a Shimano Stella reel. A mag darter was the lure. The girth was unavailable.

Winter Flounder - 17.75 inches caught by Christopher Pereira of Hopatcong on April 16. Christopher was fishing from a boat in Raritan Bay when he reeled in the fish at 9:00 am. Twenty pound test was used with a Shimano rod and an Ardent C-Force reel. A clam/bead rig served as the bait. Girth was unavailable.

Congratulations to all of our winners!

Skillful Angler Recognition Program
Record Fish Program

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Last Updated: February 5, 2018