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Fishing For A Record

By Aubry Buzek

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Fifty years ago, columnist Wayne Tiller announced, “Texas is finally getting into the act—that is, establishing official state hunting and fishing records,” in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine. The Texas Outdoor Writers Association started the fishing records list in 1968 before turning it over to TPWD in 1971, establishing what has now been half a century of big fish and even bigger memories.

Adults have historically dominated the records list, but that has changed. Junior anglers now compete in a category all their own, and participation among them is growing each year.

“I’m starting to see more kids taking part in the angler recognition program,” said Chuck Dewey, a TPWD certified scale operator and holder of one world record and 238 state freshwater fishing records. “And I see the results. Believe me, when they are 30 years old they’ll still have their certificate, and they’re going to get their kids into the program, too.”

In the first quarter of 2017, juniors set three state records and 34 water body records in Texas—an increase of more than 42 percent from the previous year. And over the last decade the program participation has increased by more than 30 percent, according to TPWD Angler Recognition Program director Ron Smith.

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Junior angler certificates are available in eight different categories and four gear types (rod and reel, fly fishing, bow fishing and unrestricted) at hundreds of lakes, rivers and coastal waters in the state. And the key to setting a record is not just “angler’s luck”—it’s putting in the research and time to find the right location, species and tackle. That’s the recipe for a record.

It is unlikely the longstanding largemouth bass state record of 18.18 pounds at Lake Fork will be topped anytime soon, but some locations reg-ularly stocked with largemouth bass don’t have a junior angler record at all. Prime spots can be narrowed down by checking TPWD’s online lake survey reports to see which species thrive in that location. And once a fishing spot and species have been chosen, the TPWD freshwater fishes guide and other online resources can help identify which tackle is needed for the job.

Dewey said you don’t want to wait until you land a big fish to find somewhere to weigh it. He recommends checking the TPWD website and finding a certified scale in the area before hitting the water. Certified scales are found in marinas, bait stores, feed mills, grocery stores and post offices.

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After the research comes the fun part: time on the water.

“Keep fishing and good things will happen,” Dewey said. “It doesn’t come overnight—the more you fish, the more you learn about the traits of those fish and you learn from your mistakes. You’ve just got to keep going out.”

But above all else, Dewey said anglers shouldn’t lose sight of what’s really important.

“The records are secondary,” Dewey said. “The most important thing is promoting love and respect for the outdoors.”

Aubry Buzek is a media communications specialist in the TPWD press office in Austin.

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