Wildlife Watch: Meet Vermont's first master angler

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FERRISBURGH, Vt. (WCAX) To be called a master angler in Vermont, you have to catch 33 fish all above a certain length-- a tough task. Until this year, no one had done it. But that all changed. Our Ike Bendavid met the man who now has serious bragging rights.

The master angler program has been around for eight years now. It's a way to get people fishing a way they have never tried before or to get people to just try fishing. To qualify, you need to snag some big fish!

"The master angler program established a list of 33 different fish species and we set length benchmarks that constitute a trophy size fish for each of those species," said Shawn Good, a biologist with the Vt. Fish and Wildlife Department.

The Vermont Fish and Wildlife website sets the requirements for a master angler fish. Good says the program is open to everyone and kids under 15 have different requirements. While some people had snagged fish that meet the requirements, no one had gotten all of them yet. But this year, something unexpected happened.

"Here we are eight years into the program now and we have an angler who ended up catching all 33 fish species over the last eight years, which is something that the department never anticipated. That's a pretty remarkable achievement," Good said.

That master angler is Drew Price.

Reporter Ike Bendavid: Obviously, you have been doing for years. How does it feel to have the title master angler?
Drew Price: I have been more relaxed then I have been the last eight years. I really put a lot of pressure on myself to get this done. It was a huge weight taken off my shoulders.

The experts took me out fishing for longnose gar, a prehistoric fish that can be seen in shallow parts of Lake Champlain. Like any beginner, I start the day with a quick lesson.

"You are going to want to cast this lure just past the gar and move it in front of his face," Price explained. "He is going to chase it down. He is going to come up and he is going to grab it."

A demonstration from Price makes it look easy.

Ike Bendavid: Does it get old?
Drew Price: Uhhhh, no. It never gets old. The chase is always great. These guys are fantastic. There is always different variations in colors. I love the spots on the tail on this thing, too.
Ike Bendavid: Look at those teeth.
Drew Price: Yeah, there's a lot of teeth in here.
Ike Bendavid: I mean, that looks sharp.
Drew Price: It's razor sharp. Put your finger, you can feel them.
Ike Bendavid: That's crazy.
Drew Price: It's a native fish in Lake Champlain. It's been here 10,000 years, since the glaciers.

It was my turn to try, which started with some struggles.

"Another thing that will help you out-- go real quick then stop fast," Price advised.

But I learned quickly.

"Just make a long, blind cast and reel it on the surface. Slow it down a little bit. I can see it, you got one following it," Price said. "Try it again there is more out here."

I kept trying to reel one in but didn't have luck like the experts.

Like the hundreds of master angler fish that have been caught and submitted online, we end our day on a fish big that's master angler size-- celebrated with a photo!