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Skillful Angler Program


The Skillful Angler Program - Bigger, Better and Easier than EVER!

Leader Board Updated 6/16/21
Submitting An Application
Past Winners

For 37 years the Division of Fish and Wildlife has been recognizing the talents of New Jersey anglers who catch fish of "not quite record" size, but large enough to have tested the angler's skill and be worthy of recognition. The program also recognizes our newest anglers with its "First Fish" category. New anglers of any age can commemorate their first successful catch with a certificate from the Division.

For more experienced anglers the program recognizes trophy catches of 43 different freshwater and marine fish species in addition to Specialist, Master and Elite Angler categories. Help promote the excellent fishing opportunities that exist throughout the Garden State by submitting your qualifying catch!

The Leader Board identifies anglers with the current largest fish (weight or length) for both freshwater and saltwater. The list is updated regularly as new submissions/leaders are verified.

Beginning in 2018 submitting an application became easier than ever as applications and photo(s) can be e-mailed. Anglers submitting qualifying catches will receive a certificate and qualifier patch. Winners will also receive a certificate and Skillful Angler Winner patch.

The Skillful Angler Program has four divisions:

Adult - based on weight
Junior (under 16) - based on weight
Catch and Release - based on length
First Fish - First fish ever caught, of any species of any size, by any angler regardless of age

In addition to individual species the program also recognizes anglers who catch several qualifying fish in three categories:

Frank Ruczynksi's Skillful Angler Pickerel
Click to enlarge

  • Specialist Angler - catch five qualifying fish of the same species within one calendar year
  • Master Angler - catch five qualifying fish of five different species (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one calendar year
  • Elite Angler - catch 10 or more qualifying fish (saltwater and/or freshwater) within one calendar year
Anglers meeting the above requirements will receive a special patch and certificate documenting their angling skill!

The Slam Categories recognize anglers who catch qualifying fish of specific species:


  • Trout Slam - catch one each of qualifying Rainbow, Brook and Brown trout within one calendar year
  • Bass Slam - catch one each of qualifying Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass within one calendar year
  • Panfish Slam - catch one each of qualifying Sunfish, Crappie and Yellow Perch within one calendar year


  • Inshore Slam I - catch one each of a qualifying Striped Bass, Bluefish and Fluke within one calendar year
  • Inshore Slam II - catch one each of a qualifying Black Sea Bass, Tautog and Weakfish within one calendar year
  • Offshore Pelagics Slam - catch one each of a qualifying Bluefin Tuna, Bigeye Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna and Dolphin within one calendar year
  • Marlin Slam - catch one each of a qualifying White and Blue Marlin within one calendar year

Special recognition isn't the only program benefit. When anglers submit their entries, data of interest to Fish and Wildlife's biologists (such as the fish's weight, length, girth and the date, time and catch location) becomes available which may reveal insights about the waterbody from where the fish was hooked or as an indicator of the condition of a particular fishery. Combined data from many anglers can create a meaningful freshwater fisheries data set.

Through the Skillful Angler Program, anglers statewide can commemorate their catch while supporting Fish and Wildlife's continuing fisheries monitoring efforts.

Minimum Size Requirements for Skillful Angler Award:

Saltwater Species
Species Adult
Weight (lbs)
Weight (lbs/oz)
Catch and Release (inches)
Black Sea Bass 4 3 20"
Striped Bass 40 36 42"
Black Drum 70 63 46"
Bluefish 18 16 33"
Cod 30 27 42"
Dolphin 30 27 n/a
Flounder, Winter 2 1 lb 8 oz 16"
Fluke 8 7 27"
Kingfish 1 8 oz 13"
Mako Shark 250 225 n/a
Blue Marlin 400 360 n/a
White Marlin 60 54 n/a
Pollock 25 22 lbs 8 oz 41"
Tautog 8 7 22"
Albacore Tuna 50 45 n/a
Big Eye Tuna 200 180 n/a
Bluefin Tuna 500 450 n/a
Yellowfin Tuna 120 108 n/a
Tuna (other) 250 225 n/a
Weakfish 10 9 30"

Freshwater Species
Species Adult
Weight (lbs/oz)
Weight (lbs/oz)
Catch and
Release (inches)
Largemouth Bass 6 4 21"
Smallmouth Bass 4 3 19"
Striped Bass Hybrid 8 6 24"
Striped Bass 30 25 40"
Bowfin 6 4 25"
Bullhead 2 1 lb 8 oz 14"
Carp 25 20 35"
Channel Catfish 10 8 29"
Crappie 2 1 lb 8 oz 14"
Muskellunge 20 15 45"
Tiger Muskie 15 10 42"
White Perch 1 lb 8 oz 1 lb 4oz 14"
Yellow Perch 1 lb 8 oz 1 13"
Chain Pickerel 4 3 24"
Northern Pike 10 8 34"
American Shad 7 5 24"
Brook Trout 3 2 19"
Brown Trout 8 5 25"
Lake Trout 12 8 31"
Rainbow Trout 5 3 lbs 8 oz 23"
Salmon, Atlantic Landlocked 4 3 20"
Sunfish 1 12 oz 9"
Walleye 6 4 lbs 8 oz 24"

Submitting an Entry How to measure fish length

  • Fill out application completely
    For Adult/Junior Divisions (based on weight) application MUST be signed by the person who weighed the fish (see below).

  • ONE clear photo of the fish caught alongside a ruler providing clear identification and measurements. Please be sure ruler measurements are clearly visible in the photo.

    Additional high-resolution photos with the angler are more than welcome and appreciated. Photos become the property of the NJDFW and may be used for promotional purposes.

  • E-MAIL the application and photo(s) within 30 days of catch to:

or mail to:

Skillful Angler Program
NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
One Eldridge Road
Robbinsville, NJ 08691

*For Adult/Junior Divisions, fish must be weighed and measured by license agents, tackle shops, local grocery store or Division biologists. Applications must be signed by the person who weighed the fish and the name of the tackle shop, marina, boat or business identified.

Incomplete applications or species that cannot be identified will not be considered for an award. The Division reserves the right to investigate the fish identification, angling method and accuracy of measurement and weight. It also reserves the right to reject any application. All applications must be submitted within 30 days of catching the fish.

Skillful Angler Program Application Form - Freshwater (pdf, 690kb)
Skillful Angler Program Application Form - Saltwater (pdf, 690kb)
NOTE: Applications can be completed online and saved for e-mailing if using Acrobat Reader or other PDF viewer which supports that, or printed for regular mailing.

Past Skillful Angler Awards Winners:
The Skillful Angler Program was introduced in 1983 to supplement the NJ State Record Fish Program. In the years since it has granted Skillful Angler status to nearly 4,000 anglers. Click on any year below to see that year's top entries.

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Last Updated: June 17, 2021