Barbs and Backlashes

What is a “trophy”? by whitetips
September 29, 2010, 10:06 am
Filed under: Fishing | Tags:

I love angler recognition programs and have a stack of Nebraska and In-Fisherman Master Angler awards to prove it.  Those programs establish standards by which an angler can judge his or her catch.  I like that because if a person is serious about their fishing, and Lord knows I am, that gives you a point of reference by which you can measure your success.

But I believe a “trophy” is what you make of it.

Far be it from me to digress into an English lesson here, but I did open up the well-used Webster’s dictionary that sits just to my right and looked up the word “trophy”.  There is well over an inch of column space in the dictionary devoted to the word “trophy”.  Apparently the term originates from ancient battlefields where victory memorials were erected.  I like the last line of the definition for “trophy” the best–anything serving as a reminder, as of a triumph.  A “trophy” is what you make of it!

Yes, there are angler recognition programs that establish standards for trophy fish, but those are not the only trophy fish that folks catch!  A child’s first fish is a trophy.  The biggest or prettiest fish caught on a long-awaited trip could be a trophy.  Any catch that becomes a special memory is a trophy.  Those special memories often have more to do with surroundings, atmosphere, companions, or events more than the actual size of the catch.

How about some examples?

I have caught a lot of big fish, but one of my best trophies is a 13-inch brook trout.

I love the fact that there are a few cold-water streams in Nebraska that support wild, naturally-reproducing populations of trout.  Most of those small streams are found in some of the prettiest country in the state and the trout are just as pretty as the scenery.  That is especially true of brook trout; they are beautiful fish, one of the prettiest that swim.  Brook trout colors are even more spectacular during their fall spawning period.  I wish I could spend a week or two every fall just sneaking along some of those streams spotting, watching and catching brook trout.

It has been a few years ago now, but on one occasion I was tromping along the banks of the south fork of Soldiers Creek in late October.  The brook trout were spawning and I had already caught several; as I peaked around the next bend in the creek I spotted a pair of brook trout at the lower end of a riffle.  Instantly, I knew I wanted the male as he was absolutely gorgeous.  The female was actually larger than the male, and I suspect she might have been large enough to qualify for a Master Angler Award, but she was not nearly as colorful.  I literally crawled into position to make a drift to those fish without spooking them.  Quietly, from my knees, I dropped my bait into the stream and let the current drift it towards the fish.  Initially, there was no response from the fish and my heart sank, but then that beautiful male eased forward, tipped over and took my bait!  The fight lasted all of a few seconds; I am not going to regale you with an epic story about how I fought the fish for minutes.  Nope, once it took the bait I set the hook, led him towards me and quickly pulled him onto a bed of watercress.  GOT HIM!  I removed the hook and reached around for the 35mm camera hanging on my back.  I clicked one picture and then advanced the film, but the lever would not advance, I was at the end of the roll of film and I had no more film with me!  Arrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!  I released the fish, but worried that I had not even a picture of the prettiest fish I ever caught.  When I got home, I personally delivered that roll of film to a professional camera shop and explained my dilemma; I was hoping that somehow I had captured the image of that male brook trout on the very end of the roll of film.  I was relieved a few days later to discover that there was not a whole frame of film exposed at the end of that roll, but there was enough of a frame exposed that I had my picture!

I talked to an angler here in the office one day who had caught a white bass that was nearly large enough to qualify for a Master Angler Award, but not quite.  Actually, the fish was long enough to qualify had it been released (17 inches), but since he kept the fish it needed to meet the 2 1/2 pound minimum weight to qualify for the award.  This gentleman had kept the fish because he wanted to have it mounted, in fact he had already delivered it to the taxidermist, but he then was very upset that his fish did not qualify for a Master Angler Award.  If he did not have the Master Angler certificate, he did not believe he had a trophy catch.  I tried to explain to him that he had caught his biggest white bass ever and that was a trophy worthy of mounting, but in his mind it just did not cut it (I also explained to him that he could have released the fish, qualified for the Master Angler Award and had a graphite replica mount made, but it was too late for that too).  I wanted that gentleman to believe he had a trophy, he did, it was a big white bass and his largest ever, but unfortunately I was never able to convince him of that.

I have briefly mentioned this before, let me mention it again now:  We have angler certificates for memorable catches.  Even if your fish does not qualify for a Master Angler Award, you can make your own certificate for a memorable, TROPHY, catch, .  You can go to that web page and design your own certificate, including a photo, for a child’s first fish, Uncle Joe’s personal best largemouth bass, or your buddy’s puny little perch caught on your last fishing trip.  Make it a trophy, a special memory!

Yes, I would consider this flattie to be a trophy too--at 47 inches, approximately 55 pounds, the biggest fish I have caught so far.


3 Comments so far
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Spot on Daryl! A 1lb. bluegill, an 8lb. lmb, or a 40 lb. flathead, they’re all trophies in the eye of the beholder…….

Comment by mike mcclure

Hey, by the way, whats your biggest walleye,lrge bass, and wiper in NE? You have to be honest, knowing you, you’ll be humble.

Comment by Ray


You can read about my biggest walleye here, . I blogged about my biggest bass here, . I have not blogged about my biggest wiper, yet. I have caught a couple of 28-inch wipers, both of which I guessed weighed over 12 pounds (both were immediately released; I did not weigh either one). One of those was caught from a private pond where the owner had stocked some wipers and the other was caught at Branched Oak Reservoir.

Daryl B.

Comment by whitetips

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