Like lots of other fishing enthusiasts, this is the time of year when I start thinking about getting my gear ready for spring and summer fishing adventures. So, I gather up all my flyrods and lovingly spread them out over the nearest flat surfaces (that is, most of the house) and then lovingly inspect each one

After all, fishing season is just around the corner, and I am duty-bound to be ready. 

This pre-season gear check-up is something of a ritual, and judging from conversations with others of like mind, I’m not the only one who indulges. It’s kind of like the pre-launch checklist that NASA goes through before pushing the red button and sending some big ol’ rocket into space.

Yes. It’s exactly like that, and just as important.

Somewhere in the process of checking out all those fly rods, Wife of Mine wanders by. She takes in the rods spread out on table, sofa, piano, counters and all the rest and then, usually, asks the question that fisherfolk really do not want to hear:

“Just how many fishing rods do you have?”

You know, I’m not really sure.

So, I decide to count and find out.

There are my personal rods, of course, the ones I fish with myself. Those include several “trout” rods, each purpose-built for a specific fishing situation. Then there are the rods designed for fishing with big flies for big bass. There are “small-stream rods” made for fishing for wild fish in tiny creeks. There are saltwater rods, too, among them one that I call my “alligator rod.” Yes, once, I did hook an alligator on a fly rod.

Then there are the “loaner” rods, the ones I let my buddies use if they need to borrow one for a trip. There are the “teaching” rods, the ones I call on when I’m helping someone learn to fly fish. There are the “retired” rods, those with sentimental value which see water only on special occasions. And there are even…

But enough of that. You get the idea. 

Still, I need a few more. 

Sometimes I take Tuesdays off in April, for example, so I could use a rod designed specifically for fishing on Tuesdays in even-numbered months. That’s an increasingly critical need since April (month number four, an even number) is rapidly approaching. Ha ha. 

Actually, I’m just kidding on that one, since today’s rod designers have reportedly been able to create a single rod designed specifically for fishing on Tuesdays during any month of the year! Can you imagine that? I must have that rod. Take note, family, because I’ve got a birthday coming up!

How many rods? Hmm. I’ll just round the number a little bit and tell her I have three.

Sometime over the next few weeks, I’ll put one of those rods in the truck and head to the water. I’ll make a cast – get a strike – and a few minutes later, I hope, I’ll have the first fish of 2020!

“Is it a good one?” you may ask.

All fish are good, of course, but some are gooder than others. If that fish happens to be a big one, I might just think about submitting it through the Georgia Angler Award Program for a 2020 Angler Award.

The Georgia Angler Award Program, presented by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division, is a great initiative that “recognizes anglers in Georgia who catch exceptional fish in Georgia waters.” 

The program offers awards in two categories, adult (16 and older) and youth. Awards are presented for catching what are called “quality size fish” (either kept or released) that meet or exceed certain weight or length guidelines. 

There are different requirements for adults and for youth. For example, for an adult like me, a white bass must weigh 2.5 lb. or be at least 17 inches long. But if the grandson catches one, then that white bass only needs to be 1.5 lb. or 11 inches long to be eligible for an award.

Similarly, if I’m after bluegill, my “adult” goals are 1.5 lb. or 13 inches, while the kids need only land one weighing 0.75 lb. or measuring 9 inches in length.

Hmm…I know a place…

What if you land a qualifying fish? Those who qualify will receive a certificate, a hat, and a T-shirt, and of course a generous serving of bragging rights too. The program’s rules tell you exactly how to document it and how to submit your application; complete info on the program can be found at http://georgiawildlife.com/fishing/anglerawards.

I was telling a friend of mine about this program one day last week. We were wrapping up a couple of plates of barbecued pork, and as the meal wound down, talk inevitably turned to fishing.

“Angler awards, eh?” my buddy said. “Sounds like fun!” 

And it is. But it’s more than that. The info gathered from winning anglers provides another way for DNR biologists to learn more about the genetics, age, growth and habitat preferences of big fish. That helps wildlife professionals manage the state’s fisheries “to their greatest potential,” as they say, and the payoff will be even better fishing in years to come.

For more information on the Georgia Angler Award Program, visit http://georgiawildlife.com/fishing/anglerawards.

 

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