Official Contest Rules

To participate in Florida's freshwater angler recognition programs, all fish must be caught by the angler being recognized in accordance with the freshwater recreational fishing regulations of the state of Florida at the time of the catch. This includes, but is not limited to, the angler being properly licensed or using an approved exemption, using legal gear (moreover, for angler recognition the gear must be an active hook-and-line method, which does not include bush hooks or trotlines), and fishing in fresh water or brackish waters within the state of Florida, where the angler has legal access. Your submissions to this program including photos and other data provided to the Florida Angler Recognition program constitute a release for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to use them without compensation or further notice for research, informational and other public purposes, such as being posted on this TrophyCatchFlorida.com website, Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida and in other related news releases and articles. Moreover, the FWC may require a lie-detector test prior to awarding prizes, if the legality or size of the catch is in question.

Big Catch Rules | TrophyCatch Rules | State Record Rules | Handling Guidelines

Big Catch Rules

There are 33 eligible species of freshwater fish in the "Big Catch" program. To participate an angler must abide by the general angler recognition rules and either the length or weight of the fish must exceed the posted minimum length or weight. Submit a photo of the fish (for Big Catch any clear photo of the fish, or angler and fish, will be adequate) and complete the form online. Note the certificate will be awarded to the registered angler that submits it, so each angler must be registered uniquely. For Big Catch, fish may be harvested or released (in accordance with applicable laws), if the fish was released the certificate will include an accolade to that effect.

Note that not all 33 species are available anywhere in the state. If you would like to see the approximate ranges of the species or which ones are available in your county, please visit our distribution map.

Kids Fishing Family fishing is an outstanding way to enjoy nature and spend quality time together, research has shown that active nature-based recreation contributes to a happier, healthier and more productive life style. To encourage youth fishing and add to the excitement, we have lowered the big catch minimum qualifying sizes by 25 percent for youths under age 16. Otherwise the same Big Catch rules apply for youth as for adults.

Specialists (five documented Big Catch fish of the same species), Masters (five documented Big Catch fishes of different species) or Elite Angler Certificates (ten documented Big Catch fishes of different species) are awarded to anglers following the same rules. Although the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) attempts to track and report these automatically based on an anglers customer id (license number) or registration number (for anglers exempt from licenses), it is best for anglers to indicate when a fish qualifies them for these awards. This is distinct from the TrophyCatch program, which requires greater documentation and for all bass to be released alive.

Grand slam certificates are also available. Bass Slam (for catching a largemouth bass, spotted bass, shoal bass, and Suwannee bass within one year); Bream Slam (for catching any four of bluegill, redear sunfish, spotted sunfish, warmouth, redbreast sunfish, or flier in one day), and a unique south Florida Exotic Slam (for catching a butterfly peacock, Mayan cichlid, and oscar in one day). The Big Catch Freshwater Slam Program rewards anglers who accomplish this memorable feat by providing qualifying anglers with a colorful citation showing the type of Slam they achieved. These fish do not have to achieve a minimum length or weight to be eligible.

TrophyCatch Rules

Registration:

TrophyCatch is an angler recognition program that emphasizes live-release of largemouth bass heavier than eight pounds. Similar to Big Catch all anglers must abide by the general rules above, but must also follow all of the following rules. Bass that do not qualify for TrophyCatch due to not being properly documented or to not being successfully released alive, may apply for a Big Catch certificate. To participate in TrophyCatch anglers must register* online at TrophyCatchFlorida.com.

*If not registered prior to catching a qualifying fish, the angler must do so before submitting an entry into the TrophyCatch program. However, this may be completed after the fish is caught, measured, photographed, and released. 

Submitting a Fish:

  • To enter a club level fish (see below), anglers must submit a TrophyCatch certification application online including required documentation for each club level.
  • TrophyCatch certification applications that are incomplete or fail to provide full documentation of club level requirements will result in disqualification.

See map for weigh in stations—you are not required to go to one, but a weigh station can be used to verify the weight of your catch—especially for fish 13 pounds or larger—if the fish can be safely transported until a weigh station is reached.

  • Anglers agree when using their user name/password combination to submit a TrophyCatch application that the fish was caught legally in Florida waters, the fish was not tampered with in any way to increase weight or length, and the fish was released alive.
  • 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. 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 year-end awards event.
  • Anglers may be subject to a lie detector test prior to receiving prizes.
  • The FWC reserves the right to examine photographs for any form of digital alteration and to make judgment calls regarding fish that are not adequately documented in photographs (e.g., the scale cannot be clearly read with the entire fish in view). Use of supplemental photos such as one of the length or girth may be used in making this judgment.

Requirements:

TrophyCatch largemouth bass will be accepted year-round and will require photographic documentation for certification.

Anglers who register may pick up a genetics sampling kit at FWC regional offices, and many weigh stations. Anglers are not required but are encouraged to take a fin-clip of their TrophyCatch. Since catch-and-release of trophy largemouth bass is an important component of the TrophyCatch program, genetic information will inform FWC biologists if a fish has been caught and released multiple times.

All fish entered into TrophyCatch must be caught legally in Florida waters using an active hook-and-line method (bush hooks, snatch hooks, set lines, trotlines are excluded as a method to take largemouth bass), and documented following club level guidelines (below).

Bass must be released live on the same water body where caught.

Anglers must submit high resolution photographs (good overall clarity, 3 megapixel camera or above recommended), with at least one photograph of the whole fish 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 their best judgment be verified.

Since catch-and-release of trophy fish is a goal of TrophyCatch, anglers should become familiar with handling procedures to ensure fish are healthy upon release. Largemouth bass not certified live or kept by an angler will not be accepted into the TrophyCatch program, but anglers may submit a Big Catch application to recognize these fish.

Tournament caught fish can be submitted into the TrophyCatch program provided they follow one of following:

     1) Take a photograph of the entire fish on a scale with the weight clearly visible. Additional photos of the angler holding the fish or a photo of the fish entire fish on a measuring board with the length clearly visible are recommended but not required for approval.

     2) 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 on the submission form that the bass’ weight was verified by an FWC biologist or volunteer and include their 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.

     3) 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.

Fish Handling Guidelines:

  • Land the fish as quickly as possible.
  • Use a soft, knot-less landing net.
  • Wet hands before touching fish; no dry towels.
  • Remove hook while fish is in the water if possible.
  • Cut fishing line if hooked in the throat or gut.
  • Measure length and weight and if possible girth in a timely manner.
  • Measure length on a wet, cool surface. Do not place on hot dry boat surfaces. Girth may be measured in a live well.
  • Avoid keeping the fish out of water for more than 30 seconds at a time (approximately as long as you can hold your own breathe).
  • Handle the fish only when measuring, weighing, photographing, and placing in the live well.
  • Aerate live well.
  • Use 0.5% salt in live well if possible. (0.5 lbs. uniodized salt per 10 gals. water).
  • Do not place fish in chlorinated tap water.
  • Try not to place fish in colder or warmer water than the temperature the fish came from.

State Record Rules

There are 33 eligible species of fresh water fishes for which the FWC maintains records. Certified state record fish must:

  • Be legally caught using an active hook-and-line method (including a proper license or exemption) by sport fishing methods,
  • Be identified by a Commission biologist, and
  • Be weighed on a certified scale, with an up-to-date certification stamp.
  • Anglers may be required to submit to a lie-detector test prior to certification of a state record.

Uncertified state records are believed accurate based on reliable witnesses and other evidence but are not certifiable, or they were caught by other than legal sport fishing methods. To set a new record, you need to exceed the certified records; the uncertified records are provided just for information. If you catch such a fish, contact the appropriate regional office. These records are updated as soon as they are verified.

Please note the FWC does not maintain state records for all species, and does not maintain line-classes. The International Game Fish Association is an additional source for certifying records, including length records, although neither group automatically recognizes the other's records due to differences in certification requirements.