The Skillful Angler Program – Bigger, Better and Easier than EVER!
For 39 years the NJDEP’s Fish and Wildlife has been recognizing the talents of New Jersey anglers who catch fish of “not quite record” size, but large enough to have tested the angler’s skill and be worthy of recognition. The program also recognizes our newest anglers with its “First Fish” category. New anglers of any age can commemorate their first successful catch with a certificate from Fish and Wildlife.
For more experienced anglers the program recognizes trophy catches of 43 different freshwater and marine fish species in addition to Specialist, Master and Elite Angler categories. Help promote the excellent fishing opportunities that exist throughout the Garden State by submitting your qualifying catch!
The Leader Board identifies anglers with the current largest fish (weight or length) for both freshwater and saltwater. The list is updated regularly as new submissions/leaders are verified.
Beginning in 2018 submitting an application became easier than ever as applications and photo(s) can be e-mailed. Anglers submitting qualifying catches will receive a certificate and qualifier patch. Winners will also receive a certificate and Skillful Angler Winner patch.
The Skillful Angler Program has four divisions:
Adult – based on weight
Junior (under 16) – based on weight
Catch and Release – based on length
First Fish – First fish ever caught, of any species of any size, by any angler regardless of age
In addition to individual species the program also recognizes anglers who catch several qualifying fish in three categories:
- Specialist Angler – catch five qualifying fish of the same species within one calendar year
- Master Angler – catch five qualifying fish of five different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one calendar year
- Elite Angler – catch 10 or more qualifying fish (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one calendar year
Anglers meeting the above requirements will receive a special patch and certificate documenting their angling skill!
The Slam Categories recognize anglers who catch qualifying fish of specific species:
- Trout Slam – catch one each of qualifying Rainbow, Brook and Brown trout within one calendar year
- Bass Slam – catch one each of qualifying Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass within one calendar year
- Panfish Slam – catch one each of qualifying Sunfish, Crappie and Yellow Perch within one calendar year
- Inshore Slam I – catch one each of a qualifying Striped Bass, Bluefish and Fluke within one calendar year
- Inshore Slam II – catch one each of a qualifying Black Sea Bass, Tautog and Weakfish within one calendar year
- Offshore Pelagics Slam – catch one each of a qualifying Bluefin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna and Dolphin within one calendar year
- Marlin Slam – catch one each of a qualifying White and Blue Marlin within one calendar year
Special recognition isn’t the only program benefit. When anglers submit their entries, data of interest to Fish and Wildlife’s biologists (such as the fish’s weight, length, girth and the date, time and catch location) becomes available which may reveal insights about the waterbody from where the fish was hooked or as an indicator of the condition of a particular fishery. Combined data from many anglers can create a meaningful freshwater fisheries data set.
Through the Skillful Angler Program, anglers statewide can commemorate their catch while supporting Fish and Wildlife’s continuing fisheries monitoring efforts.
Minimum Size Requirements for Skillful Angler Award:
|Catch and Release (inches)|
|Black Sea Bass||4||3||20″|
|Flounder, Winter||2||1 lb 8 oz||16″|
|Pollock||25||22 lbs 8 oz||41″|
|Big Eye Tuna||200||180||n/a|
|Striped Bass Hybrid||8||6||24″|
|Bullhead||2||1 lb 8 oz||14″|
|Crappie||2||1 lb 8 oz||14″|
|White Perch||1 lb 8 oz||1 lb 4oz||14″|
|Yellow Perch||1 lb 8 oz||1||13″|
|Rainbow Trout||5||3 lbs 8 oz||23″|
|Salmon, Atlantic Landlocked||4||3||20″|
|Walleye||6||4 lbs 8 oz||24″|
Submitting an Entry
- Fill out application completely
For Adult/Junior Divisions (based on weight) application MUST be signed by the person who weighed the fish (see below).
- ONE clear photo of the fish caught alongside a ruler providing clear identification and measurements. Please be sure ruler measurements are clearly visible in the photo. Additional high-resolution photos with the angler are more than welcome and appreciated. Photos become the property of the NJFW and may be used for promotional purposes.
- E-MAIL the application and photo(s) within 30 days of catch to: NJSkillfulAngler@dep.nj.gov
- Or Mail to:
Skillful Angler Program
New Jersey DEP Fish and Wildlife
Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries
1255 County Rt. 629
P.O. Box 394
Lebanon, NJ 08833
*For Adult/Junior Divisions, fish must be weighed and measured by license agents, tackle shops, local grocery store or Fish and Wildlife biologists. Applications must be signed by the person who weighed the fish and the name of the tackle shop, marina, boat or business identified.
Incomplete applications or species that cannot be identified will not be considered for an award. Fish and Wildlife reserves the right to investigate the fish identification, angling method and accuracy of measurement and weight. It also reserves the right to reject any application. All applications must be submitted within 30 days of catching the fish.
Skillful Angler Program Application Form – Freshwater (pdf, 690kb)
Skillful Angler Program Application Form – Saltwater (pdf, 690kb)
NOTE: Applications can be completed online and saved for e-mailing if using Acrobat Reader or other PDF viewer which supports that, or printed for regular mailing.
Past Skillful Angler Awards Winners:
The Skillful Angler Program was introduced in 1983 to supplement the NJ State Record Fish Program. In the years since it has granted Skillful Angler status to nearly 4,000 anglers. Click on any year below to see that year’s top entries.