New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife Back to State of NJ Homepage Back to Fish and Wildlife Homepage Back to NJ DEP Homepage

2003 Skillful Angler Awards Winners


The Skillful Angler Awards Program honors the many anglers who catch both freshwater and marine fish which aren't of record size but are impressive and worthy of recognition. At the end of each year, special recognition is given to the anglers who caught the largest fish in each of the freshwater and marine species categories.

In 2003, 126 applications representing 20 different species were officially processed.

Interesting Facts for 2003:

The most frequently entered species by skillful anglers in 2003 were walleye, fluke and striped bass with 17, 16 and 15 entries received, respectively.

The following is a breakdown of applications received per species: largemouth bass (4), smallmouth bass (3), striped bass hybrid (4), channel catfish (7), crappie (1), muskellunge (1), chain pickerel (12), northern pike (2), brown trout (2), rainbow trout (3), walleye (17), black sea bass (4), striped bass (15), dolphin (1), black drum (6), winter flounder (5), fluke (16), kingfish (7), tautog (6) and weakfish (10).

In 2003, no entries were received for the carp, American shad, brook trout, lake trout, bluefish, cod, white marlin, blue marlin, mako shark, pollock, albacore tuna, big eye tuna, bluefin tuna, yellowfin tuna and tuna (other) categories.

This year, the black sea bass and fluke categories are tied. The winning bass weighed 5 pounds, eight ounces each and the two winning fluke entries each weighed 17 pounds.

Art Higbee of Northfield, winner of the kingfish category, is also the new state record holder for kingfish. His fish weighed 3 ounces more than the previous record taken from Barnegat Bay in 1993.

Largemouth bass category winner Sebastiano "Sam" Stia was honored in 1998 for a 7 pound, 2 ounce chain pickerel. Sam said he fished Assunpink Lake diligently everyday before work until he got this largemouth beauty!

Dolphin category winner 12-year-old Matthew Niedoba was fishing with his dad and uncle when he landed this magnificent catch. Incidently, Matt's older brother Ryan was honored in 2000 for a 77-pound black drum. Seems catching the big ones runs in the Niedoba family.

Black Drum category winner Jeremy Hearon's brother Jason is an assistant biologist with the Division of Fish and Wildlife at the Bivalve Shellfish Office in Port Norris. That night, Jason was captaining the boat when his little brother made the catch!

This year, 21 adults and one child were honored for the largest catches in each of the skillful angler species categories.

The 2003 Skillful Angler Awards Winners are as follows:

Freshwater Species:

Largemouth Bass - 9 lbs, 8 ozs caught by 40-year-old Sebastiano "Sam" Stia of Mercerville on March 18. Sam was fishing from a boat at Assunpink Lake when he reeled this one in at 1:45 p.m. Ten-pound test was used with a Daiwa rod and an Abu Garcia reel. The lure was a Rapala minnow. The fish measured 24 inches in length with an 18 -inch girth.

Smallmouth Bass - 4 lbs, 12 ozs caught by 45-year-old David W. Deremer of Phillipsburg on June 29. David was fishing from a boat at Round Valley Reservoir when he landed the fish at 7:30 a.m. Twelve-pound test was used with a Bass Pro rod and reel. The lure was a tube worm. The fish measured 21 inches in length with a 15-inch girth.

Striped Bass Hybrid - 10 lbs, 1 oz caught by 36-year-old David R. Supko of Branchville on June 29. David was fishing from a boat on Culver Lake when he landed this one at 7 a.m. Six-pound test was used with a medium light action rod and a spincasting reel. A floating 4-inch Rapala lure served as the bait. The fish measured 29 inches in length with a 19-inch girth.

Channel Catfish - 21 lbs, 6 ozs caught by 65-year-old Ralph West of Browns Mills on May 27. Ralph was fishing from the banks of the Delaware River in Burlington when he got the fish at 9 p.m. Twenty-pound test was used with a surf rod and a Penn reel. Cut shad served as bait. The fish measured 31 inches in length with a 19 -inch girth.

Black Crappie - 2 lbs, 10 ozs caught by 63-year-old John Ouweleen of Pompton Lakes on July 17. John was fishing from a boat at the Clinton Reservoir when he landed the fish at 5:30 p.m. Ten-pound test was used with a spinning rod and a Daiwa reel. A Zoom plastic watermelon seed worm served as the lure. The fish measured 17 inches in length with a 13-inch girth.

Tiger Muskellunge - 20 lbs, 6 ozs caught by 45-year-old Jeffrey J. Pelt of Succasunna on July 4. Jeffrey was fishing from the shore of Lake Hopatcong when he reeled the fish in at 10:30 p.m. Six-pound test was used with a Shakespeare rod and a Tica reel. Mann's Loudmouth Jerkbait served as the lure. The fish measured 40 inches in length with a 19-inch girth.

Chain Pickerel - 6 lbs, 10 ozs caught by 25-year-old Douglas Vitale of Middlesex on March 2. Douglas was ice fishing at Lake Aeroflex when he landed this one at 1 p.m. Ten-pound test was used with a tip-up. A shiner served as bait. The fish measured 28 inches in length with a 14 -inch girth.

Northern Pike - 23 lbs, 8 ozs caught by 71-year-old Warren Hagstrom of Wanaque on September 15. Warren was fishing from a boat on Pompton Lake when he landed the fish at 10:35 a.m. Eight-pound test was used with a Shimano rod and reel. A Roland Martin Silver and White Big Bass Swing Lure served as bait. The fish measured 42 - inches in length with a 21-inch girth.

Brown Trout - 11 lbs, 8 ozs caught by 45-year-old Gary Kreckie of Howell on May 3 during the Newark Bait and Fly Casting Club's annual tournament. Gary was wading in the Musconetcong River at Stephens State Park when he hooked the fish at 10:45 a.m. Four-pound test was used with an XPS Graphite spinning rod and a Pinnacle reel. A baby nightcrawler served as bait. The fish measured 29 inches in length with a 16 -inch girth.

Rainbow Trout - 9 lbs caught by 21-year-old Earle Kerr of Milford on April 28. Earle was fishing from the banks of the Musconetcong River when he landed this one at 1 p.m. Six-pound test was used with a Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod and a Penn reel. A blue fox lure served as bait. The fish measured 27 inches in length with a 16-inch girth.

Walleye - 10 lbs, 12 ozs caught by 26-year-old Eric Summitt of Phillipsburg on July 1. Eric was fishing from the shore of the Delaware River when he landed the fish at 10 p.m. Fifteen-pound test was used with a Shakespeare rod and a Shimano reel. A shiner served as bait. The fish measured 29 inches in length with an 18-inch girth.

Saltwater Species:

Black Sea Bass - 5 lbs, 8 ozs caught by 29-year-old Jay LeVance of Tuckerton on June 10 during the Fisherman Magazine's Dreamboat Competition. Jay was fishing from his boat over the Garden State South Reef when he reeled the fish in at 11:30 a.m. Twelve-pound test was used with a Penn rod and reel. A top and bottom rig with clams served as bait. The fish measured 22 inches in length. Girth was unavailable.
And
Black Sea Bass - 5 lbs, 8 ozs caught by 62-year-old Howard Simmons of Mays Landing on May 29. Howard was fishing aboard a party boat when he reeled the fish in at noon. Twenty-pound test was used with an Eagle Claw rod and a Shakespeare Sigma reel. Bait is unknown. The fish measured 22 inches in length with a girth of 15 inches.

Striped Bass - 57 lbs, 5 ozs caught by 55-year-old Donald A. Stein of Fortescue on November 11. Donald was fishing from his boat in Delaware Bay when he hooked the fish at 8:30 a.m. Fifty-pound test line was used with a Fenwick rod and a Penn reel. Bunker served as bait. The fish measured 52 inches in length with a 30 - inch girth.

Dolphin - 30 lbs caught by 12-year-old Matthew Niedoba of Berlin on August 15. Matthew was fishing with his dad and uncle out at Wilmington Canyon when he reeled the fish in at 9:15 a.m. Thirty-pound test line was used with a Cape Fear rod and a Penn reel. Bait is unknown. The fish measured 52 inches in length. Girth was also unavailable.

Black Drum - 97 lbs caught by 22-year-old Jeremy Hearon of Woodbine on June 6. Jeremy was fishing from his brother's boat in Delaware Bay when he reeled the fish in at 7:30 p.m. Thirty-pound test line was used with a Penn rod and reel. Clams were used for bait. The fish measured 55 inches in length. Girth was unavailable.

Winter Flounder - 3 lbs, 12 ozs caught by 40-year-old Michael C. Murphy of Freemansburg, PA on November 30. Michael was fishing the surf at Island Beach State Park when he caught the fish at 10 a.m. Seventeen-pound test was used with a custom made rod and a Finor reel. Bait is unknown. The fish measured 18 inches in length.

Fluke - 17 lbs caught by 56-year-old Joe Fischler of Keyport on July 14. Joe was fishing from his boat in Raritan Bay when he landed the fish at 3 p.m. Fifteen-pound test was used with a Loomis rod and a Bass Pro reel. The lure was a Teaser. The fish measured 34 inches in length.
And
Fluke - 17 lbs caught by 71-year-old Janet Zlata of Highlands on August 31. Janet was fishing on her husband's boat at the Sandy Hook Channel when she landed the fish at 2 p.m. Twenty-pound test was used with a Penn rod and reel. Bait type was unavailable. The fish measured 36 inches in length. The catch is also certified by the IGFA.

*Kingfish - 2 lbs, 6 ozs caught by 51-year-old Art Higbee of Northfield on October 25. Art was surf fishing at Margate Beach (not far from Lucy the Elephant!) when he landed the fish at 3:30 p.m. Twenty-pound test was used with a Shakespeare Ugly Stick rod and a Shimano reel. A bloodworm was used for bait. The fish measured 18 inches in length with an 11-inch girth. This fish is the current state record.

Tautog - 20 lbs, 7 ozs caught by 24-year-old James Dopkin of Surf City on December 30. James was fishing from a party boat off Barnegat Inlet when he reeled the fish in around noon. Sixty-pound test was used with a conventional rod and a Shimano Trinidad reel. Green crabs served as bait. The fish measured 30 inches in length with a 22 -inch girth.

Weakfish - 12 lbs, 14 ozs caught by 68-year-old Ed Cherry of Manahawkin on May 10. Ed was fishing from his boat in Barnegat Bay when he landed the fish at 10 a.m. Ten-pound test was used with a Loomis rod and a Shimano reel. A Spro DuraShad lure served as bait. The fish was 34 inches in length with an 18-inch girth.

* denotes state record

Congratulations to all of our winners!

Back to Fish and Wildlife Homepage Back to State of NJ Homepage Back to NJ DEP homepage