Florida Angler Recognition Program FAQs
- What photo documentation is required to verify a TrophyCatch entry?
- How do I measure total length?
- How do I estimate a bass' weight
- How do I properly release a freshwater fish?
- How do I participate in TrophyCatch if I fish on a lake with a catch-and-release regulation?
- Since the fish entered into TrophyCatch are to be released alive, can I enter a 13-pound fish in the Hall of Fame club and still be in possession?
- What steps does an ethical angler follow?
- How do I measure girth?
- Can I submit a tournament caught bass without the weight photo on the scale?
- Where are the TrophyCatch Weigh Stations?
- When a bass is taken by FWC for research, what is done with it?
- How do I register to participate and what are some trouble shooting tips, if I have difficulty?
- How long does it take to get approval and my rewards?
- I'm having problems registering, what alternatives are there?
- What type photos are needed for a Big Catch entry?
- Can all of the eligible Big Catch species be found throughout Florida?
For TropyCatch, anglers must submit high resolution photographs (good overall clarity, 3 megapixel camera or above recommended), with at least one photograph of the whole fish (head to tail) on a spring or digital scale with the weight clearly visible. Anglers are encouraged to submit two to three additional photographs of the fish: the whole fish on a measuring board with the length clearly visible, close-up on scale, the girth, being released, and/or of themselves or a friend with their catch (please remove sunglasses). Supplemental photos will be reviewed by a team of biologists, if the weight photo is not clearly visible or does not show the entire fish, and may--based on the best judgmen of the verification team--be approved.
Unlike Big Catch, this detailed documentation is required to justify the cash prizes and to ensure valid data for research and conservation management programs. Bass that are not adequately documented for TrophyCatch will be considered for a Big Catch ceritficate.
Total length is the maximum length of the fish, with the mouth closed and the tail fin pinched together. The best way to obtain this length is to use a bump board. Push the fish's snout up against a vertical surface with the mouth closed and the fish laying along a tape measure, then pinch the tail fin closed and determine the total length. Do NOT pull a flexible tape measure along the curve of the fish. The photo to the right shows a bass on a measuring board with the mouth held shut. Prior to getting a final measurement the caudal (tail) fin will be pinched shut. Be sure to wet and cool off the bump board or surface the fish will be placed on to minimize its discomfort.
Although it cannot be used to certify an official weight, use of the length and girth can give you a good estimate of a bass' weight. Scientists use a rather complex formula to attain the greatest accuracy. The equation is: Log (weight in grams) = -4.83 + 1.923 x Log (total length in millimeters) + 1.157 x Log (girth in millimeters). A 22" long bass with a girth of 15" weighs about 6.0 pounds using this formula. Fortunately there are several other easy formulas that you can use. Although they are not as accurate, they will give you a rough estimate. A quick, though very rough, estimate of torpedo shaped fish like young bass can be obtained by using: Total Length (in inches)-squared, times girth (in inches) divided by 1,200. A 22" long bass with a girth of 15" weighs about 6.1 pounds using this formula. Another common option used for estimating bass weights is: Girth (in inches)-squared, times length (in inches) divided by 800. A 22" long bass with a girth of 15" weighs about 6.2 pounds using this formula. To compare the results of each of these formulas, use our Bass Weight Calculator.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission encourages anglers to release any fish that they are not going to use. Moreover, fisheries conservation laws require some fish to be released based on bag (creel) limits or size restrictions. Whether you are releasing fish voluntarily or to comply with the law, knowing how to do so properly will greatly increase the fish's chance for survival. Please remember that if you are going to release your catch, it is very important the fish be properly handled and released as quickly as possible.
- Plan ahead before you remove the fish from the water, have your dehooker, measuring devices and camera ready—remember the fish should not be out of the water longer than you can hold your breath.
- Placing the fish back in the water between photos or measurements can be a good idea, especially if you have a live well,
- Strike quickly when a fish takes your bait or lure to reduce the chance of it swallowing the hook.
- Play fish rapidly, the longer and harder it fights the greater stress on them.
- Do not use gaffs or knotted nets, and if lifting the fish by the jaw be careful not to bend the lower jaw down. If you need to hold the fish horizontally grasp it firmly by the lower jaw and gently under the stomach with a wet hand. Minimize disturbing the slime coat, which protects the fish from infection.
- Use barbless hooks or mash the barb down. Circle hooks can be especially beneficial, and do not use stainless steel.
- Keep the fish out of the water for as short a time as possible—no longer than you can hold your breath.If the hook does not come out easily, use a dehooking tool. If the hook has been swallowed cut the line. Stomach acid will dissolve the hook.
- When releasing the fish, place it gently in the water head first. If necessary, move the fish in a gentle figure eight to pass water over the gills (do not pull it backwards).
- Note that most non-native fish should be harvested and not released, the exceptions are peacock bass and triploid grass carp.
TrophyCatch rules allow photo documentation and immediate release of all bass, including Hall of Fame fish (13+ pounds).
Anglers that have contacted the TrophyCatch coordinator will be allowed to be in temporary possession in live condition of one Hall of Fame candidate largemouth bass (estimated to be 13 pounds or greater) over the legal length limit and bag limit until the fish is documented by FWC staff or authorized representative. After landing a bass estimated to be 13 pounds or greater, the angler should immediately contact the TrophyCatch coordinator, at 1-855 FL TROPHY (855-358-7674). Anglers must have previously enrolled in the TrophyCatch program, or enroll when they contact the TrophyCatch coordinator. After the certification, the fish must be live-released or donated to the FWC for research. This is not mandatory to document a Hall of Fame fish, but will allow for more details to be obtained about the fish including a genetic fin clip and the opportunity to get photos and video for a news release.
- Carefully handle and release alive all fish that are unwanted or prohibited by regulation (see catch-and-release tips). Note that most non-native fish should be harvested and not released, the exceptions are peacock bass and triploid grass carp.
- Demonstrate and promote ethical behavior in use of aquatic resources.
- Value and respect the aquatic environment and all living things.
- Use tackle and techniques that minimize harm to fish when "catch and release" angling.
- Ensure live wells have fresh lake/river water (not tap water) and if possible run an aerator. Water should be at the same temperature as the fish were removed from or slightly cooler.
- Do not use fish stringers. If in a kayak or canoe and you need to keep the fish alive, floating net baskets (knotless) may be used.
- Keep fishing sites litter-free.
- Avoid spilling and never dumps pollutants, such as gas or oil.
- Dispose of trash, including worn lines, leaders and hooks, in appropriate containers, and recycle whenever possible. (see Monofilament recycling)
- If necessary, purchase and keep current your fishing license. If you are exempt, you may still purchase a license as a way to contribute to conservation (see our Licensing page).
- Take precautionary measures to prevent spread of exotic plants and animals.
- Learn and obey angling and boating regulations (see our Boating page for details).
- Treat other anglers, boaters and property owners with courtesy and respect.
- Respect property rights, and never trespass on private lands or waters.
- Keep no more fish than needed for consumption, and never wastefully discard fish. Note most non-native fish that cannot be released are good eating.
"Girth" is best measured with a fabric ruler, such as tailors use. It can also be determined by drawing a string around the fish at its widest point marking where the string overlaps and then measuring the distance between the overlapping points on a conventional ruler. The measurement should be taken perpendicular to the length of the fish. This measurement is analogous to measuring the circumference of someone's waist. Knowing the girth is important when trying to certify a fish for a record, and provides useful information to biologists about the relative condition of a fish. If you have a live well, the measurement can be taken underwater. See image above, for taking proper length and girth measurements.
In many instances a tournament angler can provide a photo of the bass on the scale with the weight visible, and that is preferable. However, other options exist when properly documented:
- If an FWC biologist or volunteer is present at the tournament and documents the weight, the angler will only have to submit a picture of him/her holding the fish and indicate in teh Description field when they submit the catch that the bass’ weight was verified by an FWC biologist or volunteer and include the FWC representatives name in the submission application. Pictures of the fish on the scale, measuring board, or additional photos of the fish are recommended but not required.
- Anglers who catch a fish in a tournament that are eligible for TrophyCatch and an FWC biologist or volunteer is not present can submit a photo of him/her holding the fish, but must also provide a link to a public website that provides information on the weight of the individual fish and angler. This should be entered in the Description field when the fish is submitted.
- Anglers in major tournaments that provide scale receipts listing the name, location and date of the tournament, along with the angler's name and weight of the individual fish, may submit an unaltered copy of the weight verification as one of their photographs.
TrophyCatch does not have formal weigh stations. However, a number of marinas and bait-and-tackle shops with easy acces can be used to verify the weight of your catch—if the fish can be safely transported and released after weighing it. This typically requires a functioning live well of adequate size and a tournament-stye weigh bag to safely get the fish to the scales and back to the release point. See: Google Earth Users Interactive Map (to download software for your web browser or mobile phone, visit Google Earth Home).
Trophy bass are generally taken for research only when there is a question of their being able to survive immediate release. If the fish can be rehabilitated at a FWC hatchery it will be later returned to its water of origin. If it dies, otoliths will be removed for age-growth studies, it will be examined for parasites/diseases, food habits may be checked, and a genetic sample taken (to determine if it was a hatchery fish or had been previously reported).
You register for both TrophyCatch and Big Catch on the registration page. The left-side option allows you to simply enter your customer number (sometimes called your fishing license number) and the phone number that you registered when you bought your license. Doing so will automatically fill in your name, address, phone number and other relevant information saving you time. Most freshwater fishing licenses have your customer number printed on them, which is what the registration look-up uses to help fill out your information. However, this information is only updated once a week, so if you just purchased a license you may have to enter the information directly (see register from scratch).
If you don't know the necessary phone number or don't remember the license number, you can look them up online (click here then choose: "Where can I view my current hunting and fishing licenses?"), then come back and enter the information, or alternatively, you may use the right-side option.
The right-side option allows you to manually enter all of your information to register. Please remember, to participate, you must be legally licensed (buy one here now, and be ready to fish instantly), or legally exempt (see exemptions scroll down and read: "You do not need a freshwater fishing license if..."). This provides an option for anyone to register whether they have access to their license number or not, but anglers that are not fishing legally (e.g., do not have an active license when required, are not eligible for prizes).
Processing time for verifying images submitted to the site ranges from a few hours to one work week. Unfortunately, there are several variables involved in the process; however, having a "perfect photo" of the entire bass on a scale (head to tail) with the weight legible significantly shortens the review time.
When the images are approved, the certificate is sent to you electronically at the same time for you to print along with information about on-line offers. Other items that must be mailed will arrive in one to eight weeks. Some Hall-of-Fame awards are not issued until after the end of the season, or at the year-end awards event.
You can always use the alternate approach to register from scratch. You just have to type in more information (such as your address). Most freshwater fishing licenses have your customer number printed on them, which is what the registration look-up uses to help fill out your information. However, this information is only updated once a week, so if you just purchased a license you may have to enter the information directly. If you can't locate your customer number or don't know the phone number you used to register, you can click this link to look it up, then enter the information on the registration site. Finally, if you are legally exempt, you can select "legally exempt" and enter your information.
For Big Catch, all we need is at least one photo of the fish or fish and angler that shows us the fish is eligible (correct species and is reasonably expected to exceed the qualifying weight or length requirement). Unlike TrophyCatch, which includes cash rewards for carefully documenting and releasing bass heavier than eight pounds, photos on a scale or tape measure are NOT required for Big Catch, but they are encouraged.
No. Of the 33 species that are eligible for recognition in the Big Catch program, several have limited natural ranges, such as the Suwannnee and shoal bass, and others are non-native fishes that generally are only found in limitied areas. Our Rangefinder Map allows you to see the typical distribution area for each species.