The TARP program features five levels of recognition for anglers catching trophy fish. They are:
Trophy Fish Certificate
Awarded to any licensed angler who legally catches and releases and submits an application to the TWRA
Master Angler Level I
A certificate and patch awarded to anglers who catch five qualifying trophy-length fish.
Master Angler Level II
A certificate and patch for anglers who catch trophy fish in five different species.
Master Angler Level III
A certificate and patch awarded to anglers submitting 10 different trophy species. In addition, Master Angler Level III fishermen will earn a tackle package from Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville, Tennessee.
Master Angler Level IV
Awarded to anglers submitting 15 different trophy fish. Those who reach this level with be awarded a certificate, patch and an engraved trophy.
As an incentive for anglers, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency has the Tennessee Angler Recognition Program to recognize trophy catches made throughout the year. Licensed anglers can submit fish caught which exceed minimum lengths for specific species to earn a certificate with artwork by noted wildlife artist Joseph R. Tomelleri and qualify for other rewards as more trophy fish are caught.
According to the TWRA, the TARP program is designed to "acknowledge anglers for outstanding sportfishing accomplishments, encourage catch-and-release of trophy size fish, and provide the TWRA with information on large fish caught throughout the state."
Minimum trophy lengths have been established for various gamefish in the state, some of which include:
Largemouth bass: 22 inches
Smallmouth bass: 20 inches
Black or white crappie: 14 inches
Bluegill: 10 inches
Channel catfish: 30 inches
Rainbow trout: 24 inches
Anglers catching fish that meet or exceed trophy lengths can submit their catch with documentation in the form of a photograph or the statement of a witness on an application form that can be found on at the TWRA website or by contacting the TWRA Fisheries Management Division at 615-781-6575.
While the winter cold may keep some anglers from hitting the area's lakes and rivers right now, it's still time to begin preparing for another year of fishing in Tennessee.
The end of February is time to renew annual fishing licenses in Tennessee, with the 2014 yearly Type 001 basic hunting and fishing permit for state residents going on sale Feb. 18 at the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency's web site (tnwildlife.org). The annual license is valid until the end of February 2015, and is the basic license needed to hunt and fish in Tennessee.
For more information on the TWRA's Tennessee Angler Recognition Program, including the complete list of fish and their minimum trophy lengths and how to apply and submit your trophy catch, go online to tn.gov/twra/fish/tarp/tarp.html to find out how to earn recognition for catching big fish throughout 2014.