Know that Iím not talking about some youngster turning sixteen. As I write this I can hardly remember those days. Only that I was an avid, although not quite as skilled (arguable) or knowledgeable (doubtful) as I was at sixteen. No, sixteen refers to a fish count.
Now Iím giving you fair warning, what follows contains a bit, heck, a lot, of horn blowing, back patting (yes my arm hurts), and puffery. If thatís troublesome to you I advise you quit reading now.
Iíve made no secret that I chase master angler awards (MA). My goal isnít to see how many awards, slips of paper I can get. Itís easy to wallpaper your office with them if you concentrate on species like black bass. Eighteen inch bass can occur in any small Front Range pond with adequate conditions. I caught eight MA bass at Quincy one spring day, but only one was a new personal best, so only one certificate was requested.
The fun thing about the MA program is you can make it whatever you want to fit your personal agenda. My goal is to obtain a MA for every species currently listed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. I say currently, as over the years since I started collecting awards, the program has added (pumpkinseed and red ear) and removed species (chinook and American eel). In addition, the requirements to meet MA qualification have changed for some species. A few more need to be adjusted in my opinion, such as largemouth and brown trout up, white bass and sauger down.
There are currently 43 species listed on the MA program. My own personal objective is to catch each on a fly and in the released category. The reason for doing so is much like the reason for climbing a mountain, for the challenge.
Speaking with a CPW biologist a few years back about the MA program and my goals, he commented master angler fish are mostly luck. On any given day, I agree luck plays a role in catching trophy fish. Letís face it, in most tournaments, the angler who wins with the most weight, isnít the same angler with the biggest fish. However, I believe that the ability to catch MAís regularly, be it one species or many species, as Iím attempting, represents some level of skill. As I look back over the MAís I hold, a few of them were ďluckĒ in the sense I wasnít targeting that fish specifically with the intent to catch an MA of that species right then. Many were successfully targeted specifically.
Back to the sweet sixteen, yesterday I caught my sixteenth MA species, a freshwater drum. Iíll readily admit luck had a big hand in this fish. First off, we were targeting carp and in the process picked up a couple drum, mine just making the required 20 inch mark. Second, drum is not a common fish in Colorado, at least not in big numbers. Iíd only caught them at Jumbo Annex, Bonney, and Jackson prior. Finally, before heading out, I check which species at that location have MA potential. Yesterday, at Prewitt, I figured there was a shot at MA carp, crappie, wiper, walleye, and channel catfish.
Needless to say, it was a pleasant surprise to see the drum come to net and even more pleasant when it measured 20 inches as I figured drum to be one of the more difficult MA awards to get. Whatís next? Well, Iíve missed getting a number of species due to their being a hair short or no witness, grayling, crappie, wiper, and white bass come to mind. But one never knows for sure when Lady Luck will smile upon us. Rest assured Iíll let you know when number seventeen hits the net!