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New Jersey

Freshwater Fishing

Freshwater Fishing

Skillful Angler Program

Justin Lerner holding a beautiful Northern Pike caught while bank fishing the Passaic River.
Justin Lerner holding a beautiful Northern Pike caught while bank fishing the Passaic River.


The Skillful Angler Program is designed both to supplement the New Jersey Record Fish Program and to acknowledge that many anglers catch freshwater and marine fish that are not record size but are still worthy of recognition because the size and weight of the fish sufficiently tested the angler’s skill. Open to resident and non-resident anglers. All fish must be caught in New Jersey waters using a hook and line during legally open seasons.

Saltwater species taken from a boat must have been caught from a boat that left from, and returned to, a New Jersey port during the same trip.

Anglers can now submit their application and photo(s) electronically! Program rules and steps to enter are found here NJFishandWildlife.com/skflang.htm. Anglers qualifying for a Skillful Angler award receive a certificate along with a Skillful Angler patch as a testament to their achievement. The Program has three main divisions: Adult (for anglers age 16 and older), Junior (under age 16) and Catch and Release (based on length). A clear, side-view photo that allows accurate species identification must be included with each application. Additional good quality (and high resolution) photos with the angler are welcome and appreciated.

The Skillful Angler Program recognizes different levels of fishing expertise. An angler who submits five applications of qualifying size for the same species will receive a Specialist Certificate. An angler who submits five applications of qualifying fish of different species will receive a Master Certificate. Catch 10 or more qualifying fish within the year, and the angler will earn an Elite Angler Certificate.

For new anglers, the Program also recognizes your first fish caught no matter the age of the angler. Qualified anglers will receive a First Fish certificate. Three additional categories may bring out your competitive nature. Personalized certificates are also awarded for the Slam Series which includes:

  • Trout Slam—catch one each qualifying rainbow, brook and brown trout
  • Bass Slam—catch one each qualifying small and largemouth bass
  • Panfish Slam—catch one each qualifying sunfish, crappie and yellow perch.

Each month, the leaders of each category and species will be posted on our Skillful Angler Leader Board webpage. At the end of the year, special recognition is given to anglers who catch the largest fish in each species category. The winner of each category is sent a special certificate recognizing his/her accomplishment along with a winner’s patch as the best of New Jersey’s Skillful Anglers.

Fish must be measured from the tip of the nose (with mouth closed) to the tip of the tail. For catch and release categories, the fish must be measured and photographed alongside a ruler. For Adult/Junior Division, fish must be weighed and measured by a fishing license agent, tackle shop or authorized Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist.

Anglers must submit a photograph of the fish caught, alongside a ruler for clear identification and measurement verification. Be sure the ruler markings are legible. Please also include an attractive, well-composed, high-resolution (large file size) photo to be considered for printing in the New Jersey Freshwater Fishing Digest. Smile! All photos become the property of the NJDFW and may be used for promotional purposes.

To apply, go to: NJFishandWildlife.com/pdf/fwfisheries/skflangapp-fresh.pdf.

New!

Email your Skillful Angler entry and photo from any device!

Minimum Requirements for Each Freshwater Species

Species

Adult Weight (lbs., oz.)

Junior Weight (lbs., oz.)

Catch & Release (inches)

Largemouth Bass

6

4

21

Smallmouth Bass

4

3

19

Striped Bass Hybrid

8

6

24

Striped Bass

30

25

40

Bowfin

6

4

25

Bullhead

2

1 lb., 8 oz.

14

Carp

25

20

35

Channel Catfish

10

8

29

Crappie

2

1 lb., 8 oz.

14

Muskellunge

20

15

45

Tiger Muskie

15

10

42

Yellow Perch

1 lb., 8 oz.

1

13

White Perch

1.8

1.4

14

Chain Pickerel

4

3

24

Northern Pike

10

8

34

American Shad

7

5

24

Brook Trout

3

2

19

Brown Trout

8

5

25

Lake Trout

12

8

31

Rainbow Trout

5

3 lbs., 8 oz.

23

Salmon, Atlantic Landlocked

4

3

20

Sunfish

1

12 oz.

9

Walleye

6

4 lbs., 8 oz.

24

The New Jersey State Record Fish Program requires a separate application from this Skillful Angler Program and is based on weight alone. Scale certification ­documentation and a weighmaster’s signature are necessary. Other rules apply. Visit Fish and Wildlife’s website at NJFishandWildlife.com for a complete list of current state records.