Alaska's Trophy Fish Program - Recording the Memorable Catches
Catching a trophy size fish in Alaska is a thrilling milestone for any sport fishing angler. The excitement of reeling in and landing an enormous fish is overwhelmingly satisfying. However, it’s no easy task. I know through firsthand experience by spending countless days on the water every year, making thousands of casts, and traveling hundreds of miles around Alaska fishing for that elusive lunker to attach itself to the end of my line. The scarcity and rarity of landing a monster size fish is what makes the achievement so sweet. The moment should be shared and celebrated. Alaska's Trophy Fish Program is made for just that.
Many states host special programs to validate and recognize trophy fish catches, and Alaska is no exception. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game Sport Fishing Division Trophy Fish Program allows sport fisherman who catch their once in a lifetime fish an opportunity to receive certified recognition for their accomplishment.
Alaska’s trophy fish program includes eighteen species of fish from both fresh and salt waters. Minimum weights set for individual species determine trophy size fish qualification. Fish are required to be weighed on certified scales and witnessed by a designated Trophy Fish Official. I was fortunate enough to experience the process myself this last week when I brought up a large burbot while ice fishing at a favorite Interior lake over the weekend.
I previously learned from reviewing requirements found online at the ADF&G website that burbot caught in Alaska needed to weigh a minimum of eight pounds to qualify for the program. The website also contains links to the official rules of the program and listings of current trophy fish officials and locations. I knew my fish was not going to be a state record breaker, but I estimated the size to be around 10 pounds, a new personal best for me since it was the largest burbot to date I had caught. I kept my big prize frozen over the remainder of the weekend until ADF&G would be available for an official entry into Alaska's trophy fish program.
Monday finally arrived and off I went with my burbot into Fairbanks Regional ADF&G office. I was greeted at the ADF&G by sport fish information officer Nancy Sisinyak. I eagerly told her all about my big catch as we walked to the laboratory building to have the fish weighed and measured. The fish was placed on a digital scale platform and ended up at 11 pounds 10 ounces. Victory! It was heavier than I estimated.
After an additional length measurement was taken at 35.5 inches, a trophy fish affidavit needed to be completed. Sisinyak collected information from my sport fishing license and details of the catch including location and method and lure type. She also took a photo with me and my new big buddy as a backup for the digital photos I provided, that were taken at the catch site. Sisinyak further explained to me that the affidavit and photo entry would be sent to the ADF&G office located in Anchorage for processing and a certificate would be sent to my address in a few weeks.
ADF&G maintains a data base for all the accepted entries in the trophy fish program. The data base of recorded fish goes back to the 1960’s. Since the data base is mainted and updated I learned some interesting facts. It gave me great pride to find out my fish was the second largest burbot from the particular lake which it was caught from. The largest burbot from the lake was caught in 1995 and weighed 18 pounds. Guess I have some room to grow before I attempt to beat the lake record.
This was my first experience in actually bringing in a fish to ADF&G to weigh-in for an entry into the program. However, my angling buddies and I have participated with Alaska’s trophy fish program for several years in another manner. The program includes honorary trophy catch & release certificates and patches for nine different fish species of resident fish. This allows fisherman to use selective harvest techniques, or in certain locations which are restricted to harvest by regulation, to still participate and receive acknowledgment for their angling achievement.
Entries into Alaska's trophy fish program are simple and can be done by completing the trophy fish affidavit and including a photo at the catch site. Submitting the entry is done by sending it by mail to the Anchorage ADF&G office. Complete rules and instructions are available at the ADF&G website or in regional printed Alaska sport fishing regulation booklets. You can always contact your local ADF&G office if you have questions or need more information about the program.
Alaska’s Trophy Fish Program is a great way for both resident and visiting anglers to be recognized when they catch a memorable big trophy fish by documenting the achievement and celebrating their accomplishment with others. I certainly enjoy participating in the program and the challenge of trying to catch the next species of fish that might meet Alaska's minimum trophy size requirements, and possibly the next State record.
Dennis Musgraves is a member of the Alaskan Salmon Slayers. Follow them on their website
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