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An addition to the excitement

This is the time of year when anglers make plans.

Plans for the opening weekend in May, plans for summer fishing trips, plans for little excursions to area hot spots on the weekends.

With all this time to think about fishing, here's something to put into the back of those walleye-chasing (or whatever species is preferred) minds: becoming a Master Angler.

The Master Angler program is cooperative project between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame. There are no tournaments to compete in or dues to pay, you just have to catch a big fish.

The program is open to all licensed Minnesota anglers and non-residents that have a Minnesota license. Youth and adults have separate divisions, so there isn't such a high standard for anglers ages 16 and younger.

There are a few rules to follow and you can find the complete list on the Minnesota Fishing Hall of Fame's website (, but to summarize: Anglers must be licensed in Minnesota; fish must be taken during their legal seasons; harvested fish must be weighed on a certified scale; released fish must be measured from nose to tail; a color, side-view photograph must be submitted with the entry form; only one entry per calendar year per species will be accepted.

There are three categories in the program: Master Angler, Expert Angler and Grand Master. Master Angler status is awarded to those who submit one qualifying fish. An Expert Angler is awarded to those who have already achieved Master Angler status and have three qualifying fish in separate species that qualify for Master Angler awards. A Grand Master is awarded to those who have already achieved both Master Angler and Grand Master status and has caught five qualifying fish in separate species.

Award winners will get their names on the Master Anglers page of the Hall of Fame's website, a posting on the Honors Wall at the Hall of Fame in Brainerd and eventually a certificate of achievement.

What do you have to shoot for? Among the more common species in our area, a 26-inch walleye (or six pounds, five ounces for a harvested fish) will qualify for an adult. For bass lovers, a 21-inch fish - either smallmouth or largemouth - will get recognition. Northern pike 40 inches long or 18 pounds, 5 ounces is the standard for adults.