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Texas Fish Records Program Sets Its Own Records
ATHENS—For many people, second only to the thrill of landing a trophy fish is seeing one’s name go into the record book for the catch.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Joedy Gray is the person in charge of making that happen, and with the cooperation and enthusiasm of Texas anglers, he was very busy in 2010.
“My number one goal when I took over the Angler Recognition Program in 2002 was to increase angler participation, especially among youth, and it looks as if that is being accomplished,” Gray said.
Gray cites the following facts to support his claim.
In calendar year 2010,
- 1,223 catches of fish were submitted for awards, the most ever, beating the previous high of 913 in 2009;
- 1,731 awards were issued for these catches, beating the previous high of 1,383 in 2009;
- 64 Outstanding Angler awards were presented, topping the previous high of 51 in 2003 and 2004.
- 36 Junior Angler water body catch-and-release awards beat the 2009 high of 15;
- 16 Junior Angler state catch and release records beat the 2008 high of 10;
- 93 water body catch-and-release records topped 2009’s 57;
- and 394 Big Fish awards for the year was just shy of the high of 400 set in 1994 and the second most ever.
Gray is especially proud of the fact that the 356 First Fish awards was extremely high. The previous record was 73 in 2003. First Fish awards go to anglers who report catching their first fish ever, and more than a few go to adults.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recognizes not just catches of big fish but also fishing excellence through its Angler Recognition Program. The program maintains state record lists for public and private waters and water body records for all public lakes, rivers, and bays. The program also issues certificates for other types of angler achievements such as first fish, big fish, elite angler and outstanding angler. Information on awards categories and current records can be found on the TPWD web site at http://tpwd.texas.gov/fishboat/fish/programs/fishrecords/.
For state and water body records, junior anglers (under 17 years of age) compete in a separate division. If a junior angler’s catch beats an all-ages record, the young angler receives recognition in both divisions.
The catch-and-release division is relatively new and is one of Gray’s innovations. “It’s often difficult or impossible to find a certified scale to get a weight on a fish, and sometimes fish die while the angler is looking for a place to weigh it,” Gray said. “That’s why we started awarding catch-and-release records, which require only a photo of the fish with a measuring device.” Catch-and-release allows anglers to take an active part in conserving fish by releasing them immediately after catching and photographing them.
Gray is also working to increase awareness of the program among youth, especially those who fish in salt water. “If anglers have their own certified scale, each bay system in the state has a number of youth records available,” Gray points out. And a catch does not have to be Texas-sized to qualify in a category with no existing record. “There is a minimum weight requirement of two ounces or 0.125 pounds for youth and an eight-ounce or 0.5-pound minimum for adults,” Gray said.
In all, 14,179 catches have been awarded 21,095 awards. Gray would love to make your name the next to go into the record book.
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