This year marks the 36th 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 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:
The most frequently entered species by skillful anglers in 2018 (adult, junior and catch and release categories combined) were Chain Pickerel with 22 applications followed by Largemouth Bass with 16 applications.
The following is a breakdown of applications received per species (all categories combined):
The Catch and Release Category had the greatest number of entries with 105 applications, followed by the adult category with 11 applications and the juniors with 2 applications. There were 22 First Fish applications received.
In 2018, the following were anglers were recognized:
The 2018 Skillful Angler Winners are as follows:
ADULT CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:
Muskellunge - 33 lbs. caught by Mike Carroll of Bloomsbury on March 17. Mike was fishing from a boat on Lake Hopatcong when he landed the fish at 5:45 p.m. Eight-pound test was used with a Crappie rod and spinning reel. A small shiner served as the bait. The length measured 49 inches and the girth measured 25.5 inches.
Rainbow Trout - 6 lbs. 8 oz. caught by Jim Case of Belvidere on April 26. Jim was fishing from the shore of the Pequest River near Route 46 in Belvidere when he landed the fish at about 2:00 p.m. Four-pound test was used with a Renegade Ultra Stik rod and Mitchell Triad reel and a Joe's Flies lure. The length measured 22.5 inches and the girth measured 14 inches.
Black Crappie - 2 lbs. 4 oz. caught by Tim Soja, Jr. of Newton on February 11. Tim was Ice Fishing on Big Swartswood Lake when he landed the fish at 9:00 a.m. Ten-pound test was used with a Tip Up rod and reel. Shiner served as bait. The length measured 15.75 inches and the girth was 12.5 inches.
Smallmouth Bass - 4 lbs. was caught by Peter Rathjens of Wharton on August 10. Peter was fishing in his boat on Lake Hopatcong when he caught the fish at 2:00 p.m. Twelve-pound test was used with Fenwick rod and Daiwa reel as well as spinner bait.
ADULT CATEGORY SALTWATER SPECIES:
Cod - 30 lbs. 9.5 oz. caught by Paul Haertel of Clifton on October 4. Paul was fishing from a boat at an offshore wreck on Barnegat Inlet when he landed the fish at 2:30 p.m. Fifty-pound test was used with a custom rod and conventional reel using Clam as bait. The Cod measured 40 inches.
Fluke - 11 lbs. 8 oz. caught by Phil LaGrossa of Toms River on August 5. Phil was fishing from his boat off Toms River when he caught the fish at 9:00 a.m. Fifty-pound Power Pro test was used with Daiwa VIP Muskey rod and Daiwa Luna reel using gulp bait. The fish measured 30.5 inches in length and 24.5 inches in girth.
Kingfish - 1.32 lbs. caught by Stacy Fowler of Lederach, PA on October 9. Stacy was surf fishing in Beach Haven when he caught the fish at 11:00 a.m. Fifty-pound test was used with a Penn reel using Mullet as bait. The fish measured 16 inches in length.
Striped Bass - 54 lbs. 12.8 oz. caught by Paul Haertel of Clifton on May 28. Paul was fishing from his boat off Asbury Park when he landed the fish at 6:00 p.m. Eighty-pound test with a conventional reel on a trolling rod with a Tony Maja #4 White Bunker Spoon lure. The fish measured 50.25 inches in length.
Weakfish - 10 lb. 2 oz. caught by Phil LaGrossa of Toms River on May 1. Phil was fishing from shore on Barnegat Bay when he caught the fish at 10:45 p.m. Fifty-pound Power-Pro test and a Van Staal 200 reel was used on a 9-foot Lamiglass rod using a lure. The fish measured 30 inches in length and 17 inches in girth.
Brook Trout - 2 lbs. 8.5 oz. caught by Nicholas Shumard of Point Pleasant on February 25. Nicholas was fishing from shore on Spring Lake when he landed the fish at 5:10 p.m. Four-pound test on a spinning rod/reel was used with meal worm and power bait. The fish measured 18.75 inches in length and 10.5 inches in girth.
Chain Pickerel - 4 lbs. 12 oz. caught by Gerard Delvescovo of Lake Hopatcong on January 21. Gerard was ice fishing on Lake Hopatcong when he caught the fish at 7:15 a.m. Thirty-pound test was used along with a Tip-Up reel and Shiner bait. The fish measured 27 inches in length and 10 inches in girth.
CATCH AND RELEASE CATEGORY FRESHWATER SPECIES:
Black Crappie - 18.5 inches caught by Bryan Hickman of Manasquan on July 7. Bryan was fishing from his boat on Turkey Swamp Pond when he landed the fish at 2:12 p.m. Eight-pound test was used on a 2-piece rod and spinning reel using Senko bait.
Bullhead Catfish - 17 inches caught by Larry Newman of Brick on October 25. Larry was fishing from his kayak on Lake Riviera when he caught the fish at 6:19 p.m. Twenty-pound test on a Quantum reel and TFO rod were used with a worm as bait.
Chain Pickerel - 26.5 inches caught by Edward Guth, Jr. of Bridgeton on April 2. Edward was fishing on East Lake from his kayak when he landed the fish at 4:07 p.m. Six-pound test with a jig was used on a Lite Power rod and spinning reel. The fish weighed in at 3 lb. 12 oz. and had a 10.5-inch girth.
Largemouth Bass - 23.5 inches caught by Vincent Santroni of Mantua on October 10. Vincent was fishing from his boat on Laurel Lake when he landed the fish at 2:25 p.m. Twenty-pound braid test was used with an AbuGarcia Baitcaster rod and Ardent Apex Elite Baitcaster reel. "Dirty Jersey" jig was the lure used.
Northern Pike - 41 inches caught by Michael Kolodziej of Landing on January 1. Michael was ice fishing on Pompton Lake when he caught the fish at 1:30 p.m. Fifty-pound test was used on a Tip-Up rod with XL Shiner bait.
Rainbow Trout - 25.25 inches caught by Justin Lerner of Basking Ridge on October 13. Justin was fishing from shore at the South Branch Raritan River when he landed the fish at 3:00 p.m. Four-pound test and a jig were used on a St. Croix rod and Pflueger reel.
Smallmouth Bass - 21.25 inches caught by Phil Juhring III of West Windsor Township on June 3. Phil was wading near the shore of the Delaware River when he caught the fish at 3:54 p.m. Ten-pound test was used on a RainShadow rod and Shimano reel. An X-Rap lure was used.
Striped Bass Hybrid - 25.5 inches caught by Duane Chapman of Lake Hopatcong on May 24. Duane was fishing from his boat on Lake Hopatcong when he landed the fish at 9:30 p.m. Ten-pound test was used with a Shimano rod and Quantum reel with a plug lure.
Sunfish - 10 inches caught by Jerry Vogel III of Lebanon on May 21. Jerry was fishing from his boat on Round Valley Reservoir when he caught the fish at 5:10 p.m. Eight-pound test fluorocarbon line was used on a G-Loomis IMX rod with a Helios reel. The bait was a ¼ oz. jig with grub as trailer.
Walleye - 30 inches caught by Jeremy Duca of Spotswood on August 30. Jeremy was fishing from the shore on the Raritan River when he landed the fish at 11:45 p.m. Fifteen braid test line was used with a TFO rod and Daiwa reel and a six-inch plug lure.
Yellow Perch - 14.75 inches caught by Frank Ruczynski from Monroeville on December 1. Frank was fishing in his Wilderness Systems Kayak on East Lake when he caught the fish at 9:45 a.m. Eight-pound test was used with a Shimano Expride rod and Shimano Ci4 rod using Berkely Power Minnow bait.
CATCH AND RELEASE CATEGORY SALTWATER SPECIES:
Black Sea Bass - 20 inches caught by Christopher Pereira from Hopatcong on August 5. Christopher was fishing from his boat at Sandy Hook Reef when he landed the fish at 1:00 p.m. Twenty-five-pound test was used on a Shimano rod with a Penn reel. Rattlin' Shrimp was the bait.
Bluefish - 35.5 inches caught by Larry Newman of Brick on May 25. Larry was fishing from his kayak on Barnegat Bay when he caught the fish at 7:08 am. Forty-pound braid test was used with a custom rod and Quantum Cabo reel with Popper lure.
Fluke - 30 inches caught by Christopher Pereira from Hopatcong on August 8. Christopher was fishing from his boat at Sandy Hook Reef when he caught the fish at 1:00 p.m. Twenty-five-pound test was used with a Shimano rod and Daiwa reel with a Custom Bucktail lure.