Catch a Florida Memory
I was sitting with my wife in one of the most mundane places known to human kind, the Department of Motor Vehicles. Allowing my eyes and brain to wander, I scanned the large waiting area. First place my eyes went was to the wall where all the artisan plates were hanging. Bright billboards for different organizations to pitch to the bored consumers waiting on their numbers to be called. After picking the Save our seas with the Mako Shark on it as a possibility for a future plate, I began searching the room again. I found a stack of magazines on wildlife regulations, so naturally I picked it up. As I casually flipped through the pages, I came across a sky blue double page ad. “CATCH A FLORIDA MEMORY” in big bold letters on one side and a list of 71 different species of fish on the other. This caught my attention. I started reading through the list of species and began checking them off mentally one by one. “Pompano. Check. Hardhead Catfish. Check. Mangrove Snapper. Check. Blacktip Shark. Check.” I began to realize that in my few years of living and fishing in Florida I had caught several of these species already. I turned back to the big title page with the pictures of the smiling anglers holding up different sizes and species of fish.
After reading how simple it was to enter a species by taking a photo of yourself and the fish, as well as there being no size limit, I decided I would give this program a shot. “What the hell?” I thought. I’ve already caught enough to qualify for the first tier of recognition. The 10 fish club. Later that day I registered for the program by going to catchafloridamemory.com and began scanning my phone for fishing pictures I had sent my wife or posted to Facebook. I was 3 species short of the 10 fish tier. I went back to the species list and realized that I had never taken a picture of myself and a Hardhead Catfish, Gafftop Sailcat, or a Mangrove Snapper. Even though I had caught hundreds of them! I disregarded them as throw back fish and never gave them another thought. It was at this moment that began my chase for the Life List Species. That was 2 years and 51 species ago.
There are different types of recognition within the program as well. Life List is a list of now 70 species (sorry Roundscale Speartooth, you are to hard to identify). Reel Big Fish, which is meeting a length criteria set forth for what constitutes as a big fish for that species. Grand Slams, this is for catching 3 specific species, within 24 hours.
70 Species of Florida fish. Some are easy like the Hard Head Catfish and they get more difficult such as Warsaw Grouper, Swordfish and Mako Sharks. You do not have to wait until you get all 70 to be Recognized. There are tiers at 10 fish, 30 fish, and 50 fish. No size requirements. Anglers just need to catch the specific species, and get a photo of you and the fish. At each Tier you receive a prize pack from FWC. Mine included a certificate for being a member of the 10 fish club, a tumbler, a t-shirt, a measuring device, a hat and some stickers. At 30 fish I received many of the same items and a neck gaiter. I have not received my prize pack for 50 fish yet but will update with that info when I get it.
Here is the list of 70:
Reel Big Fish:
For as many species as there are on the Life List, there are as many categories or more for Reel Big Fish. To qualify an angler must catch a specified species of fish and meet or exceeds the size listed with that fish. Take for instance Redfish. If you catch a Redfish that exceeds 35 inches. You will qualify for a Reel Big Fish. You must take a picture with the fish and have a picture with a measuring device on the fish. The one I got in my prize pack worked great for this. Each Reel Big Fish comes with it’s own prize pack. Mine included certificates, T-shirts and a tumbler.
Here is a list of fish and sizes that qualify for a Reel Big Fish.
This is probably the more challenging of all the recognition groups. The Grand Slams. There are 12 different Grand Slam categories. Each one is challenging in its own right. But they all have the same standards: Catch three fish within 24 hours that are grouped together in Grand Slams. For example the Florida Slam is catching a Tarpon, Permit and Bonefish within 24 hours.
Triple Threat Club:
Once you have completed at least one entry into each Category you become a member of the Triple Threat Club. The triple threat club comes with a similar prize pack as the Reel Big Fish one. Shirt, Certificate and Tumbler.
FWC started the Angler recognition Program to inspire and reward anglers of all ages to chase multiple species. They also collect data from each angler with each catch. Nothing serious just catch location and estimated length. The only ones you need to make sure are measured are the Reel Big Fish qualifiers.
I’ve been fishing for an entire lifetime, there are challenges that make it interesting, but the Life List has given me a renewed motivation to pursue fishing for species I wouldn’t have gone after otherwise. So if you live in or fish in Florida, and are looking to add a little spice to your angling. Sign up for the Florida Wildlife Commission Angler Recognition Program and Catch A Florida Memory today!