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Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP) Overview

Celebrating Trophy Catches with TARP

The Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP), administered by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), celebrates anglers who land trophy-sized fish across the state. This initiative is open to fishers of all ages and honors those who catch species surpassing set qualifying lengths. Recognized catches earn anglers TARP certificates, adorned with exquisite fish illustrations by Joseph R. Tomelleri, a celebrated wildlife artist known for his detailed and accurate representations of fish.

Objectives and Benefits of TARP

TARP aims to spotlight remarkable sportfishing achievements while promoting the conservation ethic of catch and release for trophy-sized fish. This not only acknowledges individual accomplishments but also aids in the preservation of aquatic biodiversity and the maintenance of healthy fish populations. Additionally, TARP serves as a vital source of data for the TWRA, offering insights into the prevalence and distribution of large fish in Tennessee's waters.

Distinction from State Record Fish Program

It's crucial to understand that TARP operates independently of the State Record Fish program. While the latter exclusively acknowledges state record-breaking catches, TARP provides recognition for trophy fish that may not set new records. This distinction ensures a broader appreciation for significant catches and encourages continued participation in Tennessee's rich fishing tradition.

By participating in TARP, anglers contribute to a culture of conservation and sportfishing excellence, fostering a deeper connection with Tennessee's aquatic environments and the remarkable diversity of species they support.

TARP Angler Recognition Levels Explained

Introduction to TARP Recognition Tiers

The Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP) offers a structured system to honor anglers who catch fish surpassing the minimum trophy size requirements. This system is divided into five distinct levels, each with its own set of rewards, to celebrate the milestones of anglers' achievements in sportfishing across Tennessee.

Trophy Fish Certificate

Upon catching a fish that meets or exceeds the designated "trophy" length, anglers are awarded a Trophy Fish certificate. This certificate is adorned with artwork depicting the species caught, created by renowned artist Joseph R. Tomelleri, offering a personalized memento of the angler's accomplishment.

Master Angler Levels and Rewards

  • Master Angler Level I: Achieved by submitting records of five trophy-size fish, regardless of species combination. Anglers are awarded a Level I certificate and a patch, at no cost, recognizing their versatility and skill.

  • Master Angler Level II: Awarded for submitting records of five different trophy-size fish. This level acknowledges anglers' ability to catch a diverse range of large fish, rewarding them with a Level II certificate and patch.

  • Master Angler Level III: This prestigious level is for anglers submitting ten different trophy-size fish. Recognition includes a certificate, patch, and a tackle package from Bass Pro Shops (Kodak, TN), celebrating the angler's significant contribution to sportfishing and data collection.

  • Master Angler Level IV: Achieved by submitting fifteen different trophy fish. This level rewards anglers with a certificate, patch, and an engraved trophy, symbolizing their exceptional angling skills and dedication to pursuing a variety of trophy species.

  • Master Angler Level V: The highest tier, awarded to anglers submitting records of twenty different trophy fish. Recipients receive a certificate, patch, and an engraved plaque, marking an extraordinary level of achievement and commitment to the sportfishing community.

TARP Participation Criteria

Trophy Fish Qualification Essentials

To be recognized under the Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP), anglers must catch fish that not only showcase remarkable size but also adhere to specific qualification criteria, ensuring both the integrity of the program and the promotion of responsible fishing practices.

Eligibility and Documentation Requirements

  • Minimum Trophy Fish Length: Your catch must reach or surpass the specified Trophy Fish Length for its species, as detailed in the TARP guidelines.

  • Licensing: Anglers aged 13 and above must hold a valid fishing license. The application process requires the submission of the license number (TWRA #) to affirm eligibility.

  • Legal Catch Methods: The fish should be caught in Tennessee waters using authorized sportfishing techniques. Acceptable methods include using a rod and reel or a cane pole, aligning with Tennessee Sportfishing Regulations to ensure ethical fishing practices.

  • Verification: The size of the fish must be independently verified. This can be achieved through:

    • Witness Confirmation: A witness must fill out the relevant section of the TARP application to attest to the fish's length.
    • Photographic Evidence: Alternatively, a photograph of the fish, either lying flat next to or on top of a straight measuring rule or tape, must be included with the application. This photo serves as proof of the catch and may also be featured on the TWRA website and in its publications, highlighting the angler's achievement.

State Record Consideration

If your catch potentially sets a new state record, immediate contact with a TWRA Fisheries Biologist is advised for positive identification and verification. This step is crucial for those aiming to etch their name in the annals of Tennessee's fishing history, beyond the recognition offered by TARP.

Applying for the TARP Certificate: A Step-by-Step Guide

Submission Process for Trophy Fish Recognition

The Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP) provides a structured method for anglers to submit their trophy fish catches for official recognition. To streamline the application process and ensure a smooth experience, follow these detailed steps:

1. Accessing the Application Form

  • Location of Form: The application form can be found both on the previous page of the provided material and online. This accessibility ensures that anglers can easily obtain the form whenever they have a qualifying catch.

2. Completing the Application

  • Single Fish Per Form: Each trophy fish catch requires a separate application form. Ensure you accurately fill out all necessary details for each fish you're registering.
  • Multiple Submissions: If you're applying for multiple fish at once, you can include several completed forms in a single envelope to simplify the submission process.

3. Providing Verification

  • Photographic Evidence: If the fish's length is verified through a photograph, include this picture with your application. The photo should clearly show the fish next to a measuring device to validate the catch size.

4. Application Fee

  • Processing Charge: For each Trophy Fish Certificate application, a $5.00 processing fee is required. This fee covers the administrative costs of processing your application.
  • Payment Method: Payments should be made via check or money order, payable to TWRA. This ensures that your application is processed efficiently.
  • Mailing Instructions: Send your completed application(s), along with the processing fee and any required photographs, to the address provided on the application form. Submissions must be mailed within 90 days of the catch date to be considered valid.

5. Additional Submission Notes

  • Photo Requests: TWRA reserves the right to request or require a photograph for any application, emphasizing the importance of maintaining photographic evidence of your catch.
  • Non-refundable Fee: It's important to note that the processing fee is non-refundable, even if the application does not qualify for a certificate.

6. Further Information and Assistance

  • Contact and Resources: For more details about TARP or the State Record Fish program, you're encouraged to call (615) 781-6575 or visit the official TWRA website at www.tnwildlife.org. These resources can provide additional guidance and answer any questions you may have about the application process or the programs themselves.

TARP Minimum Trophy Fish Lengths

Essential Measurements for Trophy Recognition

The Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP) sets specific length requirements for anglers aiming to achieve trophy status for their catches. Below is a comprehensive list of species eligible for TARP recognition, alongside their minimum trophy length criteria. Meeting or exceeding these lengths qualifies the catch for TARP certification and rewards.

Trophy Length Criteria by Species

  • Largemouth Bass: 22 inches
  • Spotted Bass: 18 inches
  • Smallmouth Bass: 20 inches
  • Striped Bass: 40 inches
  • Hybrid Striped Bass (Cherokee Bass): 28 inches
  • White Bass: 18 inches
  • Yellow Bass: 11 inches
  • Black Crappie: 14 inches
  • White Crappie: 14 inches
  • Bluegill: 10 inches
  • Redear Sunfish: 11 inches
  • Rock Bass: 10 inches
  • Sauger: 20 inches
  • Walleye: 28 inches
  • Yellow Perch: 11 inches
  • Muskellunge: 40 inches
  • Brook Trout: 10 inches
  • Brown Trout: 26 inches
  • Rainbow Trout: 24 inches
  • Lake Trout: 28 inches
  • Channel Catfish: 28 inches
  • Blue Catfish: 36 inches
  • Flathead Catfish: 36 inches
  • Common Carp: 34 inches
  • Freshwater Drum: 28 inches
  • Bowfin: 26 inches
  • Longnose Gar: 45 inches

Key Points for Anglers

  • Verification Required: To qualify, the length of the fish must be verified through a witness or a photograph, as specified in TARP application guidelines.
  • Catch Legality: Fish must be caught in compliance with Tennessee Sportfishing Regulations, using authorized sportfishing methods such as rod and reel or cane pole.
  • Licensing: Anglers 13 years and older must possess a valid fishing license to participate in TARP and will need to provide their license number on the application.
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