Fishing the Fifty
My Quest to Fish All 50 States
After completing my Master Angler I, I continued my Virginia citation quest by fishing for different species in pursuit of my Master Angler II.
My friend’s parents live near Lake Monticello and we all went out there for some fishing. Being an avid follower of the Virginia DGIF website since learning of the citation program’s existence from Mike Puffenbarger in 2011, I knew that Lake Monticello does not produce many trophies, averaging only one citation per year since 2006. I therefore only expected to catch some little fish and enjoy time with my friends. However, as luck would have it, I caught an 11.5-inch trophy sunfish.
I fished with Forest Pressnell (newrivercharter.com) on the New River near Wytheville for trophy walleye. Forest is best known for his musky and smallmouth trophies, but I needed a citation walleye, and Forest delivered. Our day on the water in February brought freezing rain and below-freezing temperatures, with ice eventually accumulating to over half an inch. Nonetheless, Forest put me on a good walleye spot that yielded a 25.5-inch, five-pound trophy after several hours of fishing in those miserable conditions. My “waterproof” pants proved to be anything but, and my hands did not return to a normal color until about Harrisonburg, but it was definitely worth it for my seventh different citation species.
Musky fishing can be very slow and quite frustrating, with “good” days sometimes defined as simply having one fish follow your lure to the boat one time. Having had no luck catching a citation musky on my own, I turned to Mike Coley of Savage Strike Guide Service (newrivermusky.com) for help. We fished the New River in sunny but still-freezing conditions in December. Fishing with a musky expert definitely turned out as well as I had hoped it would. Within an hour on our first day, I had landed my first fish, a beautiful 41-inch citation musky. Less than forty minutes after that, I had another citation. The next day I caught three more muskies, with the last being my personal best, a 44-inch, 25-pound trophy. Trophy musky fishing success like this is not typical, and I have Mike’s vast fishing expertise to thank for it.
The scenic New River. Don't let the name fool you; this is the second oldest river in the world.
My first citation musky, 41 inches
My second citation musky
My personal best musky, 44 inches and 25 pounds
My citation white perch was definitely the biggest surprise of my Virginia citations thus far. I often catch white perch by mistake or to use for bait, but I do not remember ever catching one bigger than 10 or 11 inches. Moreover, the Potomac River has produced only five registered white perch citations since 2006. I was fishing for bait with my light tackle rod when I felt something noticeably heavier than the small white perch I had been catching. I was quite surprised to find not a sunfish but a 13-inch citation white perch on the hook. While white perch are not necessarily a fish to write home about, I was very happy to get a citation in a species that I never expected to cross off my list, and I was even happier to have caught a citation in my ninth different species, putting me one step closer to my Master Angler II.
After completing my 49th state and scheduling my Hawaii trip, I turned my attention back to my Virginia Master Angler quest. Lake Frederick is well-known locally for its trophy bass and northern pike. After several failed attempts over the years at a citation pike, I learned of the lake’s citation carp opportunities. Les, the local expert, gave me a few pointers and, five hours into my third attempt to catch a citation carp, I finally landed a 36-inch trophy. Carp are much-maligned, in this country at least, which is too bad because this fish took many runs and put up a great fight, made better by the light tackle I used. It may not have been the most glamorous fish I have ever caught, but the carp’s trophy size meant that it was my tenth different species with a citation, giving me my coveted Master Angler II.