Trophy Catch Rules
TrophyCatch is a citizen-science conservation rewards program for bass anglers that emphasizes live-release of largemouth bass weighing eight pounds and heavier. TrophyCatch bass will be accepted year-round and require photographic documentation for verification. For rewards and rule consistency, however, TrophyCatch is divided into seasons that begin on Oct. 1st and end on Sep. 30th the following year. For instance, Season 1 ran from Oct. 1, 2012 through Sept. 30, 2013. In order to earn rewards, all entries must be caught and submitted within the current season. However, anglers have until Oct. 15th to submit a catch from the prior season. Therefore, announcements of the TrophyCatch champion for each season will not take place until the end of October or November.
All fish entered into TrophyCatch must be caught legally, including a proper license or exemption, in Florida waters using an active hook-and-line method (bush hooks, snatch hooks, set lines, trotlines are excluded as a method to take largemouth bass), and documented following club level guidelines (below).
Bass must be released alive in the same water system where caught.
To earn TrophyCatch rewards, and so the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologists can use the data in their research, the weight needs to be carefully verified. The four main options are:
1. Submit a photo of entire fish, including tagged fish (displaying head-to-tail, with no part of the fish cut out of the photo) on the scale with the weight showing. Hand scales must be held by the designated handle without interfering with or touching the chain, shaft, or the fish while weighing. All scales, including panscales, should be properly tared in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Supplemental photos holding or releasing the bass, close-ups of the scale with at least half of the fish visible, images of the entire fish on a bump-board or tape-measure, and girth photos are encouraged to be submitted. However, the required photo is of the entire bass on the scale with the weight clearly visible.
2. Link to a specific tournament, sponsor, published newspaper, or magazine website with official results, including your name and verified weight of the individual fish, along with the date and location of the tournament. Use the actual link to the public accessible website that shows specific catch details.
3. Include a photo copy of an official, printed, tournament weigh slip with the tournament information that includes your name and verified weight of the individual fish, the date and location of the tournament, or
4. Provide the name and contact info for a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission official who saw the actual fish being weighed and can verify it (e.g., creel clerks, conservation officers, event volunteers). Witnesses such as fishing partners, guides or tournament officials are not sufficient.
The FWC reserves the right to modify these rules to ensure accurate weight information is collected for research and to ensure the live-release of trophy bass back into the water system where they were caught. Decisions by FWC staff to approve or deny catches will be final based on the information submitted by the angler and the biologists' expertise and experience with trophy-sized bass.
If your catch does not qualify for TrophyCatch, the FWC may be able to provide a Big Catch certificate if it qualifies for the program. The Big Catch program provides a certificate to anglers for their qualifying catch, but the data will not be used for biological purposes and it does not include prizes from TrophyCatch partners. See BigCatchFlorida.com for details.
Anglers should submit high resolution photographs (good overall clarity, 3 megapixel camera or above recommended), with at least one photograph of the whole fish on a spring or digital scale with the weight clearly visible. Anglers are encouraged to submit three or four additional photographs of the fish: the whole fish on a measuring board with the length clearly visible, close-up on scale, the girth, being released, and/or of themselves or a friend with their catch (please remove sunglasses). Photos and documentation will be reviewed by a team of biologists. If the fish’s weight is not clearly visible in the photo, it does not show the entire fish, or the submission is questionable in terms of the size of the fish or location/method of catch or live release, the TrophyCatch team may verify or deny the entry based on their professional judgment.
Anglers may upload a video snippet in MP4 format, upto 50 MP in size for one or more of the five photos. Suggested documentation includes beginning with a wide angle showing the entire fish (head to tail) being properly held on the scale and then zooming in to ensure the weight can be read. Video is a great way to also document the live release of your catch.
Since catch-and-release of trophy fish is a goal of TrophyCatch, anglers should become familiar with handling procedures to ensure fish are healthy upon release. Largemouth bass not certified live or kept by an angler will not be accepted into the TrophyCatch program, but anglers may submit a Big Catch application to recognize these fish.
Anglers who register may also pick up a genetics sampling kit at FWC regional offices, or request them from TrophyCatch@MyFWC.com. Anglers are not required but are encouraged to take a fin-clip of their TrophyCatch. Since catch-and-release of trophy largemouth bass is an important component of the TrophyCatch program, genetic information will inform FWC biologists if a fish has been caught and released multiple times.
Terms for Participation
To participate in Florida's freshwater angler recognition programs, the registered angler must have caught the submitted fish themselves, in accordance with the freshwater recreational fishing regulations of the State of Florida at the time of the catch. This includes, but is not limited to:
- The angler must be properly licensed or have an approved exemption.
- The angler must use legal gear (moreover, for angler recognition the gear must be an active hook-and-line method, which does not include bush hooks, trotlines, or bow).
- The angler must be fishing in fresh water or brackish waters within the state of Florida, where the angler has legal access.
- The angler must abide by all size, bag, season and location-specific fishing regulations.
- In the case of the TrophyCatch program, anglers must attest that they successfully live-released the bass in the water system where it was caught (after documenting it) and that it was able to swim off. Bass submitted to the program cannot be harvested or kept.
Your submission to this program, including photos and other data provided to any Florida Angler Recognition program, constitutes a release for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to use them without compensation or further notice. Such use would typically include research, informational, and other public purposes, such as being posted on TrophyCatchFlorida.com, BigCatchFlorida.com, Facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida, other third-party promotional use such as websites or publications, and in other related news releases, articles, brochures, advertisements, or reports.
TrophyCatch participants are also eligible to participate in varying monthly promotions, which will be advertised each month on the TrophyCatch Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TrophyCatchFlorida) and Instagram page (https://www.instagram.com/fishreelflorida/). The prizes for these promotions vary from the TrophyCatch general prizing, but TrophyCatch program rules must still be followed for participants to be eligible to receive the monthly promotion prizes. Monthly promotion rules and prizes may vary and the FWC and TrophyCatch reserves the right to modify monthly promotion rules and prizes. Monthly promotion rules will be listed with each promotion announcement. By participating in any Facebook promotions, the participant agrees that their participation constitutes a complete release of Facebook and that this promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. TrophyCatch and the FWC are not responsible for the actions, content, information, or data of persons submitting photos or other third parties, on Instagram or Facebook.
Advanced registration is encouraged to help ensure you understand the specific rules, stay up-to-date with angler recognition program updates, and have the proper equipment (scale, measuring tape and camera) to document your catch when you go fishing.
Neither the FWC nor the State of Florida endorse any individual company, and each company is solely responsible for their products/services and fulfillment of any offers.
Youth under 13 are required to have their parent or guardian’s approval to participate.
FWC employees including OPS are not eligible to win prizes other than picture and certificate level recognition.
State laws prohibit false claims or fraud when claiming prizes; moreover, the FWC may require a lie-detector test prior to awarding prizes, if the legality or size of the catch is in question. FWC reserves the right to deny prizing or further participation in the TrophyCatch program or any other FWC-affiliated program if FWC determines that a submission was submitted fraudulently. Fraudulent submissions may include, but is not limited to, photos submitted not belonging to the individual claiming them to be theirs, altering documents, claiming fish was caught in area where it was not, recording a false weight or length, and any other act of dishonesty or fraud meant to circumvent the rules of this program. Any person who is denied an entry or prize will be notified. Persons notified of fraud will be provided an opportunity to provide a written rebuttal for FWC to consider.
FWC reserves the right to limit prizing in the event of multiple submissions from an angler during the same season.
Fish Handling Guidelines
- Set the hook quickly to avoid deeply hooked fish.
- Land the fish as quickly as possible.
- Use a soft, knot-less landing net.
- Wet hands before touching fish; no dry towels.
- Remove hook while fish is in the water if possible.
- Use de-hooking tools and heavy cutters to cut and remove hooks. Today’s hooks do not rust out.
- Learn new methods to back hooks out. Cut line, gently pull shank to reverse hook and remove with pliers.
- Measure weight, and if possible length and girth, in a timely manner.
- Measure length on a wet, cool surface. Do not place on hot dry boat surfaces. Girth may be measured in a live well.
- Avoid keeping the fish out of water for more than 30 seconds at a time (approximately as long as you can hold your own breath).
- Handle the fish only when measuring, weighing, photographing, and placing in the live well.
- Aerate live well.
- Use 0.5% salt in live well if possible. (0.5 lbs. uniodized salt per 10 gals. water).
- Do not place fish in chlorinated tap water.
- Try not to place fish in colder or warmer water than the temperature the fish came from, although cooler is better than warmer..
State Record Rules
There are 33 eligible species of freshwater fishes for which the FWC maintains records. Certified state record fish must:
- Be legally caught using an active hook-and-line method by sport fishing methods,
- Be identified by a Commission biologist, and
- Be weighed on a certified scale, with an up-to-date certification stamp.
- Be caught by an angler with a valid freshwater fishing license or exemption.
Anglers may be required to submit to a lie-detector test prior to certification of a state record.
- Uncertified state records are believed accurate based on reliable witnesses and other evidence but are not certifiable, or they were caught by other than legal sport fishing methods. To set a new record, you need to exceed the certified records; the uncertified records are provided just for information. If you catch such a fish, contact the appropriate regional office. These records are updated as soon as they are verified.
Please note the FWC does not maintain state records for all species, and does not maintain line-classes. The International Game Fish Association is an additional source for certifying records, including length records, although neither group automatically recognizes the other's records due to differences in certification requirements.