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2016 Skillful Angler Recognition Program Winners

 

This year marks the 34th anniversary of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife's Skillful Angler Program. For more than three decades the Division has been recognizing anglers who catch fish of "not quite record" size but large enough to have tested the angler's skill and be worthy of recognition in each of the freshwater and marine species categories.

The Skillful Angler Recognition Program is designed to supplement the New Jersey State Record Fish Program. Significant changes were made in January of 2015. Although the program's three divisions remained the same (Adult, Junior, and Catch and Release), there are now categories creating more opportunities for qualifying fish to earn the angler a series of personalized certificates:

  • Specialist Angler - catch five qualifying fish of the same species within one year
  • Master Angler - catch five qualifying fish of five different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one year
  • Elite Angler - catch 10 or more qualifying fish of 10 different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one year
  • First Fish - catch your first fish of any species
Three additional categories (the Slam Series) include:
  • Trout Slam - catch one each of rainbow, brook and brown trout
  • Bass Slam - catch one each of small and largemouth bass
  • Panfish Slam - catch one each of sunfish, crappie and yellow perch
In 1983, the program began with 31 applicants. In 2016, 129 applications representing 18 different species were officially processed fromf 51 individuals. Since the program's modest beginning, the Division has granted skillful angler status to 3,830 anglers.

INTERESTING FACTS:

The most frequently entered species by skillful anglers in 2016 (adult, junior, and catch and release divisions combined) were crappie with 24 applications, followed by sunfish with 21 applications.

The following is a breakdown of applications received per species (all categories combined):

Freshwater:
Largemouth Bass (6), Smallmouth Bass (5), Striped Bass Hybrid (5), Bullhead (5),Channel Catfish (1), Crappie (24), Muskellunge (1), Yellow Perch (5), Chain Pickerel (7), Northern Pike (2), Brown Trout (1), Rainbow Trout (4), Atlantic Landlocked Salmon (1), Sunfish (21), and Walleye (11).

Saltwater:
Black Sea Bass (3), Striped Bass (1), Bluefish (9), and Weakfish (2).

In 2016, no entries were received for Striped Bass - freshwater, Carp, Channel Catfish, American Shad, Brook Trout, Lake Trout, Black Drum, Cod, Dolphin, Winter Flounder, Fluke, Kingfish, Mako Shark, Blue Marlin, White Marlin, Pollock, Tautog, Albacore Tuna, Big Eye Tuna, Bluefin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, and Tuna (other).

The catch and release division had the most number of entries with 116 applications, followed by the adult category with 11 applications and the juniors with 2 applications.

In 2016, the following were anglers were recognized:

First Fish: Haley Banks and Robert Jenkinson, Jr.
Specialist Angler: Christopher Baggott, Ryan D. Hicks, Larry Newman, Christopher Pereria, Peter Rathjens, and Frank Ruszynski
Master Angler: Patrick Gallagher and Christopher Pereira
Elite Angler: Frank Ruszynski
Slam Series, Bass: John C. Deroko, Sr.

The 2016 Skillful Angler Winners are as follows:

ADULT CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:

Crappie - 2 lbs, 4.8 oz. caught by Ryan D. Hicks of Turnersville on April 2. Ryan was fishing from the shore of East Creel Lake when he landed the fish at 1:30 pm. Ten-pound test was used with a Tsunami rod and a Daiwa reel. A minnow served as the bait. The fish measured 15 inches in length. Girth was unknown.

Rainbow Trout - 9 lbs, 4 oz. caught by Michael MacIntyre of Easton, PA on June 25. Michael was on the shore of the Musconetcong River at Point Mountain when he landed the fish. Three-pound test was used with a 13'4" float and a center pin reel. A rubber worm was the lure. The fish measured 27.25 inches in length and had an 15.5 inch girth.

ADULT CATEGORY SALTWATER SPECIES:

Striped Bass - Saltwater - 48 lbs, 0 oz. caught by Christopher Baggott of Neptune on October 25. Christopher was fishing from the surf at Monmouth Beach when he landed the fish at 1:30 pm. Forty-pound braid was used with an 11' Tica rod and a spinning reel. A live bunker served as the bait. The fish measured 53 inches in length and had a 27.5 inch girth.

Bluefish - 19 lbs, 4 oz. caught by Christopher Ferrari of Sicklerville on May 8. Christopher was fishing from the surf at Brigantine when he landed the fish at 11:00 am. Fifty-pound braid was used with a Star Ariel rod with an Okuma reel. A mullet on a mullet rig was the bait. The fish measured 39 inches in length. Girth was unknown.

Weakfish - 10 lbs, 7.36 oz. caught by Frank Ruczynski of Monroeville on April 22. Frank was kayak fishing in Barnegat Bay when he landed the fish at 5:30 am. Ten-pound test line was used with a G. Loomis rod with a Shimano reel. A Zoom Super Fluke served as the lure. The fish measured 30 inches in length and had a 17 inch girth.

JUNIOR CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:

Chain Pickerel - 5 lbs, 9 oz. caught by 10 year old Jake Dillman of Great Meadows on August 5. Jake was fishing from the shore of Blair Lake when he caught the fish at 6:30 pm. Eight-pound test was used with a spinning rod and reel. A live shiner was used as bait. The fish measured 28.5 inches in length and had a 13.25 inch girth.

JUNIOR CATEGORY SALTWATER SPECIES:

Black Sea Bass - 4 lbs, 8 oz. caught by 10 year old Keegan Rothman of Northfield on November 2. Keegan was fishing from a boat on the Astra Wreck off of Brigantine when he landed the fish at 9:15 pm. Twenty-pound test was used with an Ugly Stik rod and a Penn reel. A clam was the bait of choice. The fish measured 22.25 inches in length and had a 15.5 inch girth.

CATCH AND RELEASE CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:

Largemouth Bass - 23.25 inches caught by Keith Cowan of Mt. Ephraim on February 7. Keith was fishing from a boat on a Wildlife Management Area when he reeled the fish in at 1:00 pm. Ten-pound test was used with a spinning rod and reel. A jig served as the lure. The girth was 19.25 inches.

Smallmouth Bass - 20.5 inches caught by Carl Hozub of Summit on April 16. Carl was fishing from a boat on Merrill Creek Reservoir when he reeled the fish in at 11:30 am. Seventeen-pound fluorocarbon was used with a Daiwa Ardito rod and a Daiwa Tatula GT Type R reel. A 5" Savage Gear 3D crawfish on a oz. No Tech jig was the lure. The girth was unknown.

Striped Bass Hybrid - 25 inches caught by Patrick Gallagher of Garden City, NY on August 5. Patrick was fishing from a kayak on Spruce Run Reservoir when he reeled in the fish at 10:30 am. Ten pound test was used with a conventional rod and a leadcore reel. A 20.5 inches caught by Carl Hozub of Summit on April 16. Carl was fishing from a boat on Merrill Creek Reservoir when he reeled the fish in at 11:30 am. Seventeen-pound fluorocarbon was used with a Daiwa Ardito rod and a Daiwa Tatula GT Type R reel. A 5" Savage Gear 3D crawfish on a oz No Tech jig was the lure. The girth was unknown.

Bullhead - 19 inches caught by Christopher Ellis of Stanhope on May 21. Christopher was fishing from a boat on Swartswood Lake when he reeled in the fish at 2:00 pm. Ten-pound test was used with 7' Ugly Stik rod and an Abu Garcia reel. A crawler harness served as the bait. Girth was 12.5 inches.

Crappie - 17 inches caught by Raymond Podlesny, Jr. of East Windsor on May 24. Raymond was fishing from the shore of Mercer County Lake when he reeled in the fish at 6:00 pm. Six-pound test was used with a G. Loomis rod and a Daiwa reel. A senka was used to attract the fish. Girth was unknown.

Muskellunge - 46 inches caught by Patrick Gallagher of Garden City, NY on June 5. Patrick was fishing from a kayak on Mountain Lake when he reeled in the fish at 4:30 pm. Fifty-pound test was used with a St. Croix rod and a Cabelas reel. A believer served as the lure. The girth was unknown.

Yellow Perch - 14.5 inches caught by Jeffrey Blancuzzi of Basking Ridge on July 17. Jeffrey was fishing from a boat on the Delaware River when he reeled in the fish at 6:30 pm. Eight-pound test line was used with a Bass Pro rod and a Shimano spinning reel. A live earthworm attracted the fish. The girth was unknown.

Chain Pickerel - 27 inches caught by Frank Ruczynski of Monroeville on May 30. Frank was fishing from a boat on Garrison Lake when he landed the fish at 1:00 pm. Ten-pound test was used with a G. Loomis NRX rod and a Shimano Stella reel. A Rapala Shadrap Shad was used as the lure. Girth was unknown.

Northern Pike - 35.5 inches caught by Christopher Pereira of Hopatcong on February 15. Christopher was fishing through the ice on Pompton Lake when he landed the fish at 1:00 pm. Twenty-pound test was used with a tip up. A shiner served as the bait. The girth was unknown.
and
Northern Pike - 35.5 inches caught by Richard Chinery of Bound Brook on May 22. Richard was fishing from a boat on Spruce Run Reservoir when he landed the fish at 3:15 pm. Twelve-pound test flourocarbon was used with a St. Croix rod and a Pflueger Supreme reel. A Z-man Chatterbait served as the lure. The girth was unknown.

Brown Trout - 27 inches caught by Tim Soja, Jr. of Newton on May 14. Tim was fishing from a boat on Big Swartswood Lake when he landed the fish at 9:00 am. Six-pound test was used with a Shimano rod and reel. A herring attracted the fish. Girth was 16 inches.

Rainbow Trout - 24 inches caught by Frank Ruczynski of Monroeville on October 19. Frank was wading at Schadlers Sand Wash Pond when he landed the fish at 12:00 pm. Six-pound test was used with a Shimano rod and reel. A spinner attracted the fish. Girth was unknown.

Salmon, Landlocked - 21 inches caught by James Harding, Sr. of Bloomingdale on May 23. James was fishing from a boat on Lake Aeroflex when he landed the fish at 9:00 am. Eight-pound test was used with an Ugly Stik rod and Diawa reel. A spoon attracted the fish. Girth was unknown.

Sunfish - 10.25 inches caught by Frank Ruczynski of Monroeville on June 11. Frank was fishing from a boat on Garrison Lake when he reeled in the fish at 11:00 am. Six-pound test was used with a G. Loomis rod and a Shimano reel. A Berkeley Gulp minnow served as the lure. Girth was unknown.

Walleye - 28.5 inches caught by Christopher Pereira of Hopatcong on May 27. Christopher was fishing from a boat on Lake Hopatcong when he reeled in the fish at 11:30 pm. Ten-pound test was used with an Ohero rod and a Pflueger reel. A crankbait served as the lure. Girth was unknown.

CATCH AND RELEASE CATEGORY SALTWATER SPECIES:

Black Sea Bass - 23.5 inches caught by Christopher Pereira of Hopatcong on June 11. Christopher was fishing from a boat in the ocean when he landed the fish at 7:00 am. Thirty-pound test was used with a Shimano rod and a Daiwa reel. A 9" swimbait served as the lure. Girth was unavailable.

Bluefish - 38.5 inches caught by Larry Newman of Brick on April 27. Larry was fishing from a kayak in Barnegat Bay when he landed the fish. Thirty-pound test was used with a St. Croix rod and a reel. A popper was the lure. The girth was unavailable.

Weakfish - 31 inches caught by Frank Ruczynski of Monroeville on April 30. Frank was fishing from a kayak in Barnegat Bay when he reeled in the fish at 7:00 am. Fifteen-pound test was used with a G. Loomis NRX rod and a Shimano Stella reel. A pink Zoom served as the lure. Girth was unavailable.

Congratulations to all of our winners!

Skillful Angler Recognition Program
Record Fish Program

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Last Updated: February 17, 2017