Have you ever wanted to catch a trophy size fish and get recognition for it? Manitoba just so happens to have an amazing program that does just that!
The Manitoba Master Angler Program has been around for 62 years now making it home to the oldest master angler program in North America! Last year alone, more than 10,000 trophy fish from 30 qualifying species from lakes and rivers across Manitoba were caught and recorded. The most amazing part is that close to 92% of those fish were released back into the water – we want to let em go so they can grow! I am proud to say that I have been one of the lucky ones to be able to catch not only one but two trophy size channel catfish in Manitoba in the Red River this past September!
So How Exactly Does This Program Work?
There are 30 qualifying game fish that swim in Manitoba waters, and a minimum size length for each species. For example the minimum size for a channel catfish is 34 inches, a rainbow trout is 20 inches, a bass is 18 inches and the list goes on. If you happen to catch a fish that meets the criteria you can then apply for an award by submitting all your catch info to the program. This can all be done through the Master Angler Awards website, mobile app or by an official entry from. I chose to fill mine out on the App and it was super quick and easy to do! It was very handy especially since all the photos of my catch were already on my phone.
Your catch must be caught in Manitoba and in accordance with provincial angling regulation meaning you must have your Manitoba fishing licence, adhere to the limits and possessions in the lakes and rivers, and by using barbless hooks while fishing. Barbed hooks can cause a whole lot of damage to the fish where barbless gives it a better chance of survival. If a fish swallows a barbed hook it is almost guaranteed death where barbless can removed with very little damage. Think about it if your line breaks the barbed hook will remained hooked and has to rust away inside the fish, chances are the barbless ones will eventually fall out. If you do have barbed hooks they must remain in your tackle box and may not be used while fishing in Manitoba water.
In fact while we were fishing in Manitoba one of the channel catfish that we caught had a barbed hooked stuck in its throat along with a bunch of line. With some quick hands and teamwork we managed to get it unhooked from its throat and get the fish back into the water so it can hopefully live a much more comfortable life.
*Note we did pinch the barb in this photo so no one would get hurt by getting a hook in the hand.
Your submission must have a horizontal measurement photo of the entire length of the fish against a ruler, measuring tape or bump board to qualify for a Master Angler Award as illustrated below.
An action photo is optional but is highly encouraged. I personally was pretty excited to share a photo of myself and my catches!
All submissions must also be made within one year of the catch to be eligible to receive an award.
To ensure healthy releasable fish they will not accept photos of vertical gill holds, fish stringer holds, blood or frozen fish which have been declared as released. To be able to keep this program running as well as growing as it has been they require us as anglers to be responsible with proper handling of the fish.
Every qualifying fish that you catch is honoured with a certificate recording your success. A certificate is then mailed out to those anglers who catch and release a trophy size fish. I have to admit it was pretty exciting to get the package in the mail along with the amazing hardware that came with it. Make sure you set aside a place on your wall to display your award!
Not only that, you will also receive The Released Badge which is presented to anglers who catch and release their first trophy fish of qualifying size in any one of the 30 eligible species categories. As well as the Bronze Badge which is award to an angler who catches their first trophy fish of qualifying size again in one of the eligible species categories. I have to admit it is pretty cool to see a picture of yourself and your catch on the Master Angler Awards website.
It doesn’t stop there, you can also earn:
The Silver Badge (The Expert)
This badge is awarded to those who catch a qualifying fish from five different species of fish.
The Gold Badge (The Grand Master)
This badge is awarded to those who catch a qualifying fish from ten different species of fish.
The Platinum Badge (Elite Angler)
This badge is awarded to those who catch a qualifying fish from fifteen different species of fish.
The Diamond Badge (Ultimate Angler)
This badge is awarded to those who catch a qualifying fish from twenty different species of fish.
There are also specialist badges which are given out if you catch five qualifying fish of any one species. So if you catch 5 trophy size channel catfish your would then receive this award.
If you have younger anglers who love to fish they also have the L’il Angler Program. This program is geared towards kids 12 years of age and younger. It encourages novice anglers to get hooked on fishing and gain a little recognition while they are it. When the little anglers catch their first fish, their parents can then fill out the online form on the app, website or mail one in along with a picture to the program. Travel Manitoba will then send an embroidered crest signifying their first catch as well as a certificate of achievement. With this program there is no length requirement and the fish can be of any of the species found in Manitoba. This such an amazing program and what better way to get your little ones hooked on fishing!
When Did The Program Start
The Manitoba Angler Program was originally started by the Neepawa Game and Fish Association back in 1958 and was started to recognize anglers who caught trophy fish in Manitoba waters. The program became an instant success which overwhelmed the association so the Department of Tourism took the program over in 1960. In the beginning the first certificates and badges were issued to 480 anglers catching a trophy fish of seven different species. In 1986 the Master Angler Program became computerized due to its popularity with automated awards then being issued in 1987. By 1999 it had grown to 11,000 entries in 28 species of trophy fish bringing the total number caught and registered to over 100,000. As of today 10,000 entries are submitted to the program each year, this also includes submissions into the L’il Angler Program which was first introduced in 2002. Today there are now over 360,000 registered trophy fish caught with 30 different species in the Master Angler Program which is absolutely amazing. This just goes to show how being a responsible angler and following the rules, as well as letting those fish go so they can grow, leads to so many trophy fish!
People across Canada and the United States visit Manitoba each year to explore the bountiful waters seeking trophy size fish as well as trying to pursue Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond and Specialist award badges. I was born in Manitoba and am lucky that we get to go back often to visit family as well as fishing. My next goal is to catch a Greenback walleye from Lake Winnipeg, that one has been on my bucket list for awhile now! If you ever get a chance to fish in Manitoba waters make sure you check out the Manitoba Master Angler website for the length requirements before you go, you never know that next cast just might land you a trophy fish!!