CONCORD - The winners of the 2017 New Hampshire Trophy Fish Program were recently announced by John Viar, Region 2 Fisheries Biologist and Trophy Fish Program Coordinator. Award certificates signed by N.H. Fish and Game's Executive Director and the Commission Chairman will soon be distributed to the winners of each species category.
"Anglers of all ages are out there enjoying fishing anyway. When they share their catch information on a Trophy Fish application and get a few bragging rights - it adds to their experience. Meanwhile, we receive valuable data on fish populations not normally reported to us," Viar said. "There are hundreds of waterbodies throughout the state; these anglers are extra eyes in the field. It's fun for them and useful information for us."
In 2017, the kept and released categories yielded a total of 76 successful entries. One new state record was set, a 10.50-inch, 1-lb. 1.76-oz. pumpkinseed caught by Michael Steffen of Newmarket. Eighteen, or approximately 25 percent of entries, were from anglers under 16 years old. Lukas Tafe, an 11-year-old fly-fisherman from Manchester, caught and released a 17-inch black crappie out of Pawtuckaway Lake in Nottingham. Liam Chapman, a 14-year-old from Boscawen, caught and released a 26-inch chain pickerel from Lake Winnipesaukee in Moultonborough. Ten-year-old Zoe Groves of Conway led the category of released pumpkinseed, with her catch measuring 9.50-inches in length from Ossipee Lake in Effingham.
Fishing can be one of those rare egalitarian pursuits where even youngsters can often go "reel to reel" with the most seasoned experts, as the above entries demonstrate. Sometimes it doesn't matter if you have years of experience and the best equipment available, or a kid's rod and reel combo with worm and bobber. Weather, timing, and myriad variables can sometimes be challenging, or conditions can be absolutely perfect. But for all, the anticipation of the next bite - the perpetual occasions for hope - remains the ultimate attraction and thrill.
"Each year the wide variety of entries - or lack thereof - creates a certain amount of intrigue," Viar offered. For example in 2017, 10 qualifying entries were garnered in the "pumpkinseed released" category alone, but remarkably not one rainbow trout - kept or released - was submitted. In the released category, three two-way ties existed for top honors for brown trout (28 inches), brook trout (19 inches), and chain pickerel (26 inches). And while the total number of 76 qualifying entries submitted in 2017 was among the highest in recent years, not one saltwater entry was fielded
Seven species were represented in the kept category, and 12 species were submitted in the released category. Several species categories received only one or no entries at all. "Many anglers may not even realize the Trophy Fish Program exists, or that a particular species or size might qualify, so please help spread the word to fellow anglers interested in formal recognition of their outstanding catches," Viar advised.