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Fish Awards

John Filburn had a feeling the trout on the end of his line was the stuff of memories when his fishing pole arched deeply toward the Cumberland River last February.

“We knew it was pretty good sized, because it took out the line pretty good,” said Filburn, a retired maintenance worker from Vine Grove.

Filburn’s 24-inch, 4-1/2-pound brown trout was not only a personal best, but large enough to qualify for Kentucky’s trophy fish award.

Anglers who catch that fish of a lifetime, even if it’s not the new state record, may be eligible for a free trophy fish certificate from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. The fish doesn’t have to be the new state record, but must be a minimum length for trophies. Anglers who reel in three different kinds of trophy fish can receive a free engraved plaque certifying them as a Master Angler.

People find there’s something special about having a fishing award on their wall.

“Some people think this program is the best thing that Fish and Wildlife does,” said Benjy Kinman, fisheries director for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Elizabethtown resident Jenniffer Ward echoed that sentiment after catching a trophy 35-inch blue catfish from the Ohio River last fall.

“It really didn’t sink in that it was a trophy fish,” she said. “When I got the certificate, I couldn’t believe it.”

Since the program started in 1987, the department has awarded 4,000 trophy fish certificates and 200 Master Angler plaques. Applications and information on size limits are published in the department’s annual fishing guide. Anglers must submit a photograph of themselves with the fish and meet all requirements.

Where do you fish for a trophy? The 2003 angler awards provide a good clue. Most trophy largemouth bass, bluegill, and channel catfish are taken from private ponds. (However, last year’s heaviest bass, weighing nearly 11 pounds, came from Kentucky Lake.) Lake Cumberland had the most trophy walleye, smallmouth bass, and striped bass. The Ohio River is tops for trophy blue catfish and hybrid striped bass.


More than 1.5 million people view wildlife in Kentucky every year. Discover where to go by ordering your free copy of Watchable Wildlife and Birding Trails. This pocket-sized guide features driving routes that lead to numerous natural areas and gives you an idea of the wildlife you’ll see there. Order your free copy by calling (800) 858-1549, or visit on the Internet.

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