SPARTA, NJ - This year marks the 32nd anniversary of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife's Skillful Angler Program. For more than three decades, the Division has been recognizing anglers who catch fish of "not quite record" size, but large enough to have tested the angler's skill and be worthy of recognition in each of the freshwater and marine species categories.

The Skillful Angler Awards Program, is designed to supplement the New Jersey State Record Fish Program. In 2014, the program underwent minor changes including a change in name to the Skillful Angler Recognition Program and a requirement to submit two photos. Significant changes are in place for 2015.

Two Sparta residents who earned recognition this year.

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In the Junior Category Freshwater Species, 7 year-old Ella Yanuzzelli caught a Bullhead weighing 1 lb 15 oz. Ella was fishing at Weldon Brook on Aug 15, when she landed the fish at 8:45 a.m. Eight pound test was used with a medium action rod and a spin cast reel. A nightcrawler served as bait. The fish measured 16 inches in length and had a 9-inch girth.

In the Catch and Release Category for Freshwater Species Derek Dean caught a Striped Bass Hybrid measuring 26 inches on May 3.  Derek was fishing from a boat on Lake Mohawk when he reeled in the fish at 6:30 p.m. Ten pound test was used with a rod and an open reel. A rattle shad served as the lure. The girth was 15 inches.

In 1983, the program began with 31 applicants. In 2014, 53 applications representing 19 different species were officially processed. Since the program's modest beginning, the Division has granted skillful angler status to 3,605 anglers.