06/06/2014 — The hunt is on! The Diamond Jim component of the 2014 Maryland Fishing Challenge kicked off today when DNR biologists and members of the Maryland Youth Fishing Club caught, tagged and released the first round of striped bass into the Chesapeake Bay. One of these tagged fish is the official Diamond Jim, worth $10,000 to the angler who catches it before midnight on June 30, 2014. The other tagged “imposter” rockfish are worth at least $500 each if caught and registered before midnight on Labor Day, September 1, 2014.
“Diamond Jim heralds the beginning of a summer filled with top-notch, diverse fishing here in Maryland,” said Governor O’Malley. “The Maryland Fishing Challenge is an invitation to everyone ─ young and old, seasoned pros and first timers ─ to spend time outdoors and create memories with friends and loved ones.”
Over the summer, hundreds of imposters and one genuine Diamond Jim will be pursued by anglers. Each month that Diamond Jim goes uncaught, the reward increases from $10,000 in June, to $20,000 in July, and $25,000 in August. With a $25,000 guaranteed payout, if Diamond Jim is not caught by midnight Labor Day the cash will be split equally among those who catch imposters.
Last year was the first time in the contest’s nine-year history that the official Diamond Jim was caught. The captor, Blair Wheeler, 25 of Herndon, Va., walked away with the $25,000, and other great prizes. A novice angler, Wheeler snagged the winning striper while fishing aboard a charter boat.
Now in its tenth year, the Challenge showcases Maryland as a premier sport fishing destination with accessible, affordable, diverse and high-quality opportunities for anglers of all ages. Anyone who catches and registers a Maryland Angler Award-eligible sport fish will receive a certificate of achievement and free passes to the Maryland Fishing Challenge Finale, to be held in conjunction with the 2014 Maryland Seafood Festival at Sandy Point State Park on Sunday, September 7. There, these anglers will have the chance to win great prizes, including a boat, trailer and motor package from Tracker Marine; a tropical vacation package from the World Fishing Network; tackle packages from Bill’s Outdoor Center and Bass Pro Shops; and collectable event t-shirts from Under Armour.
DNR will also randomly select 12 members of its Maryland Youth Fishing Club, who post any catch on the Youth Angler’s Log, to win guided fishing trips sponsored by local fishing and conservation organizations. The winners will be presented with their prizes at the Maryland Fishing Challenge Finale.
New this year is an Invasive Species Award component, which recognizes anglers for reporting the harvest of blue and flathead catfish, and northern snakehead. Anglers may enter this category with an Angler Award entry, a new State record catch, or by submitting a report of the fish’s catch and keeping to the DNR Angler’s Log. An invasive species is one that is not native to Maryland and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause environmental and/or economic harm.
Anyone without a boat looking to get out on the Bay and join in the hunt can find a guide using DNR’s online Map of Licensed Charter Boats & Fishing Guides at dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/charters/map.asp. Additionally, public access shore fishing is available at State and county parks, such as Sandy Point in Annapolis and Matapeake on Kent Island.
The Maryland Fishing Challenge is a free, year-round tournament sponsored by DNR. To be eligible for the contest, all fish must be caught recreationally by rod and reel. To see the Angler Award species list and the official contest rules, visit dnr.state.md.us/fisheries/challenge.
Catch a fish is included in the Maryland Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, issued by Governor Martin O’Malley in April 2009. The Bill is part of the Maryland Partnership for Children in Nature, an initiative to ensure youth have the opportunity to connect with their natural world and grow to become informed and responsible stewards.
DNR encourages everyone to take advantage of Maryland’s Free Fishing Days: the first two Saturdays in June, and July 4.