Picture this: the sun warms the autumn air as a gentle breeze ripples the water. You’re sat on your boat; legs propped up, your hat pulled down to shade your eyes. You start drifting off to sleep when your fishing pole gives a little tug. Sleep forgotten, you wait for a second longer just to make sure. Another strong tug of the line. There’s no doubt in your mind now- something has just grabbed your shiner! You give the pole a quick jerk to set the hook. The line goes wild as your catch tries to make its big escape. You’ve just snagged a fish- and it’s a good one. Largemouth bass. 8 pounder- at least. You start reeling it in. Ahhh the perfect catch- life can’t get any better than this, right? Well, what if it can?
Catch Fish & Win Stuff
What if you could do what you love and win some cool prizes at the same time? Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, the folks at FWC (Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission) appreciate what you do. By purchasing your annual fishing license, you are helping to support wildlife conservation. By participating in their programs, you are helping them: spread the word about fishing and conservation; using conservation practices, like catch and release (that 8-pounder may one day be a 15 pounder!); and helping them to gather and study data about the fish in and around Florida.
FWC offers a variety of fishing recognition programs, where you can log in your cool catch (hey, you were probably going to show it off on social media anyway), and win some neat prizes: from decals and t-shirts to Bass Pro Shop gift cards and chances of winning a bass boat in raffles. All for something you love doing and you were going to do anyway. These FWC programs are free and open to youth as well.
The FWC fishing recognition programs provide a fun way to introduce your kids to conservation practices and the different fish species inhabiting our waters.
FWC Fishing Recognition Programs
For Florida Fresh Water Anglers:
Big Catch Florida
Big Catch Florida is an FWC program to encourage conservation. It recognizes anglers (of all ages) who catch memorable-sized freshwater fish, from largemouth bass, blue gill, blue catfish, mudfish and more. Check their website for the 33 different fish species and size requirements. And if you’re not sure where to fish for those different species, their website can help you to with their range-finder map. You will need a camera (your phone is fine), scale and tape measure. You receive a recognition citation for your catch and a decal. Catch a bigger fish? You may qualify for Specialist, Master, or Elite recognition.
Trophy Catch Florida
Caught an 8 lb or larger bass? You may be eligible to win prizes from Trophy Catch. They have an app you can download to help you and require a photo of the entire bass (head to tail) on a scale with its weight clearly visible. Trophy Catch also requires you to release your catch after the photos, in the same body of water from where you caught it. Check their website for full list of rules. Their competitions are ongoing from October 1st to September 30th and you can join anytime. With Trophy Catch you can get Bass Pro Shop gift cards and chances at winning a Pro Bass Boat & trailer. The boat giveaway is annual and the contest ends each September 30th. Each submission gives you a chance at winning the boat- provided for the giveaway courtesy sponsors. There are also opportunities to win monthly prizes as well. The Trophy Catch program was designed to promote bass conservation through catch and release fishing.
For Florida Saltwater Anglers:
Catch a Florida Memory
There are three different contests for saltwater anglers under the Catch a Florida Memory program. You can win prizes, recognition and bragging rights (yeah, you were gonna brag anyway, right?).
- In the Saltwater Fish Life List, you catch from 10 to up to 71 different saltwater fish species to receive recognition and the chance to win raffle prizes.
- Participate in a Grand Slam by catching three different species in a 24-hour period. Check their lists online for the species. There’s a variety of Grand Slams to choose from, like the Shoreline Grand Slam: sheepshead, kingfish (whiting) and Florida pompano; the Inshore Grand Slam: red drum, spotted sea trout and flounder; and the Small Fry Grand Slam for ages 15 and under: pinfish, grunt, and catfish. Win a t-shirt & recognition. Complete more than 3 grand slams and you can qualify for more prizes.
- In Reel Big Fish, catch a memorable size of any of their 3o different saltwater fish species and win recognition, a t-shirt, and a raffle entry. Catch 5 or more different species and get the chance to win more prizes.
For all these Florida fishing recognition programs, you must be registered to partake. You can do this on their website (it’s free). Also, visit the website and be sure to read the rules. Submission requirements vary per program, and if you bag that incredible catch and are without a necessary scale, you may just miss your chance at that bass boat entry.
Author’s note: As a family, we have been fishing forever, but only recently learned about these FWC recognition programs- we could’ve been participating in Grand Slams, logging our big bass catches, and winning prizes for years! Let your fellow fishing friends & families know about these neat opportunities by sharing this article 🙂
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