New Programs Celebrate Big Fish, First Fish
Posted: 04/19/2011

The bragg'n board is as much of a part of the fishing culture as bait and bobbers and a new program from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources will take the bragg'n beyond the photo on the wall in the local bait shop.

The new Iowa master angler award replaces the big fish award that had attracted between 300-400 submissions each year. Anglers who catch a fish that qualifies will receive a certificate and car or boat decal announcing their success.

"Our goal with the new master angler program is to move fishing to the front of the conversation, to get anglers talking about what fish they are going after this week and where," said Joe Larscheid, chief of fisheries for the Iowa DNR.

"I can see this program serving as a measuring stick among certain competitive anglers," Larscheid said. "Who has more species that qualify, who was first to reach the silver level, to reach the gold level, and so on."

The DNR has set minimum lengths for 41 different fish species eligible for the program that can be found in the fishing regulations or online at To submit a fish to the master angler program, measure the fish from the tip of the snout to the tip of the tail. For paddlefish, measurements are taken from the front of the eye to the fork in the tail. One witness must attest to the length of fish to the nearest 1/4 inch.

That information will go on the official master angler registry form that has additional questions including the lake or stream where the fish was caught, bait or lure used, if the fish was released and the name and address of the witness. A photo must accompany the form and the information can be submitted either electronically or through the mail.

The master angler program has three levels: Master Angler for one qualifying fish; Silver Master Angler for five different species of qualifying fish that earns the person a silver medallion in addition to the car or boat decal and certificate; and the Gold Master Angler for 10 different species of qualifying fish that earns the person a gold medallion in addition to the car or boat decal and certificate.

In addition, their name and master angler fish will be included on the DNR's webpage the following spring.

"Some of our most passionate anglers will have a plan in their mind on how they can reach gold master angler this year," Larscheid said. "But we also expect novices to submit fish qualifying for master angler designation."

The new Iowa master angler program is similar to programs offered in other states and in Canada.

First Fish Award


The DNR is also honoring an angler's first catch through the First Fish award. There are no size, species or age requirements - only that it be the fish the angler has successfully landed.

The angler will receive a certificate commemorating the accomplishment.

The rules and registration forms are in the current issue of the Iowa Fishing Regulations and online at