2015: Achieving a New Goal

22.25" Trophy Largemouth Bass

22.25″ Trophy Largemouth Bass

Every year, I set goals for myself. These goals make me push myself as an angler and allow me to reach new horizons in the sport. This year was no different. On January 1, 2015, my goal was to complete the Virginia Freshwater Master Angler out of my Jackson Kayaks.

The Virginia Freshwater Master Angler award, is given to someone who catches 5 different trophy fish species. A fish is considered a “Trophy Fish” if it passes the required minimum length or weight, which is determined by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

I started my year chasing BIG bass and pickerel. Bass must be at least 22″ long to be considered a trophy. My first two trips yielded my two biggest bass of the year! My first one was 24.5” and estimated to be around 9lbs and the other was 23.5” and around 7lbs. Both of these fish were caught deep on jigs in cold water. This checked off my first species, and with 1 down and only 4 to go with 11 months left in the year, I felt confident that I was going to get my Master Angler.

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24.5″ BEAST

 

23.5" PIG caught 2 days after the 24.5" BEAST

23.5″ PIG caught 2 days after the 24.5″ BEAST

Next on the list was pickerel. A trophy pickerel has to be at least 24” long. Fortunately, many lakes in my area hold big pickerel, so I figured it was only a matter of time until I got one. During my spring break I got just what I needed. A 25.5” Pickerel nailed a slow rolled chatterbait, while I was fishing for pre-spawn bass. Later that day, I landed a 24.5” Pickerel sealing my pickerel needs.

25.5" Pickerel

25.5″ Pickerel

Throughout the spring, I tried to find other trophy fish, with minimal success. I tried for large perch, bluegill, and crappie, with negative results. Since I couldn’t find any big panfish, I shifted my attention to bowfin. This turned out to be an exercise in frustration. After the bass spawn, countless bowfin moved into the creeks looking for bass fry to eat. I spent many hours sight-fishing for these fish to no avail. Several 30”+ fish (minimum length is 30” for a bowfin) would stare at my bait, and one bowfin even followed my kayak for over 50 yards, but I could not get them to eat.

One of the few bowfin that I actually got to bite

One of the few bowfin that I actually got to bite

Once summer set in, I shifted to a different species… longnose gar. A trophy gar must be at least 40” long. I knew exactly where these toothy critters lived, and I knew how to catch them. On my first trip, I landed the one I needed. In less than an hour of fishing, I had a 40” gar in the footwell of my Kraken. After that first Gar, I was hooked on catching them. By the end of the summer I caught 17 gar over 40” with the biggest one measuring out to 48”.

My first of many gar over 40"

My first of many gar over 40″

 

This was my biggest gar of the year measuring out to 48"

This was my biggest gar of the year measuring out to 48″

The next species I found by accident. One day while gar fishing, I put a bait on the bottom, I was hoping a bigger gar may be holding to the bottom. My rod went down and after a good fight, I brought in a 31” channel catfish. A trophy channel catfish only needs to be 30”, so I was stoked. I now had four of five species and it was early September. I ended up catching nine more trophy channel catfish, up to 34”.

Here is the biggest of my 10 trophy channel catfish.  It was 34" long

Here is the biggest of my 10 trophy channel catfish. It was 34″ long

The final species was defiantly the hardest. School started up, and I was limited to just weekend fishing on days when I didn’t have soccer or cross country. I spent a lot of time fishing for white perch and crappie. I came very close on both species. The minimum length for white perch was 13” and I caught several 12” fish. The minimum length for a crappie is 15” and I caught them up to 14.5”. After several failed trips, I started to get concerned that my goal might elude me in 2015. That changed in late October.

So Close! This crappie was half an inch short of trophy status.

So Close! This crappie was half an inch short of trophy status.

I was slow trolling live bait for white perch one day, when I paddled over the end of a long deep point. My rod went down and I figured it was just another decent white perch. As I brought it up, however, I saw that it was a yellow perch, a BIG yellow perch. I flipped the fish in and measured it on my hawg trough. The minimum length for a Yellow Perch is 12” and this fish was 12.5”. I was totally stoked. I completed my Master Angler, and it was all out of my Kayaks!

On the left is my 12.5" yellow perch.  The white perch on the right was one inch short of the minimum.

On the left is my 12.5″ yellow perch. The white perch on the right was one inch short of the minimum.

 

When I was paddling in that day I couldn’t help but chuckle. On January 1, I never thought that the hardest fish to catch would also be the smallest. The 9lbs bass, 25.5” pickerel, 48” gar, and 34” catfish, didn’t take nearly as much work, as a little 1lb 12” yellow perch. Looking back, this has been one of my best fishing years ever. In total, I caught 38 trophy fish, and had some truly epic days. One trip I caught seven trophy gar. On another trip I caught three trophy bass on my SUPerFISHal. Just recently, I caught over 100 bass in two days, with several fish pushing trophy status. All of my Jackson kayaks; the Kraken, Coosa HD, Cuda 14, Big Tuna, and SUPerFISHal worked great all year long. I’m already beginning to think of next year’s goals, and I’m excited to see what the New Year brings!

DCIM101GOPRO

HAWG on the SUP!

 

The State of Virginia sends every angler that achieves master angler a certificate and a patch.

The State of Virginia sends every angler that achieves master angler a certificate and a patch.

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