Last year’s boat package winner, Rick Snider of Biglerville, Pa. Prize sponsored by Bass Pro Shops and Tracker Boats. Photo courtesy of DNR

Landing a big fish in Maryland could also land anglers big prizes, including cash, a powerboat, a tropical vacation, tackle packages, and Under Armour and Costa gear. Hosted by DNR and now in its eleventh year, the Maryland Fishing Challenge continues to showcase Maryland as a premier recreation destination with anglers reporting excellent fishing from the Appalachian Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

“Fishing is off to another great start with more than 500 people registering Angler Award-sized fish so far this year,” said DNR Secretary Mark Belton. “Thanks to the sponsors and the enthusiasm of avid anglers, we are able to celebrate our State’s renowned fishing and outdoor recreation opportunities with awards, prizes and a great final event.”

Anyone who catches and registers an Angler Award-eligible sport fish will receive a certificate of achievement and a free pass to the Maryland Fishing Challenge Finale, to be held Sunday, September 13 in conjunction with the Maryland Seafood Festival at Sandy Point State Park. These anglers will get Under Armour HeatGear shirts and be entered to win prizes including a Tracker boat from Bass Pro Shops, a tropical fishing vacation package from the World Fishing Network, sunglasses from Costa, tackle packages from Bill’s Outdoor Center and Bass Pro Shops, and cash prizes ranging from $250 to $2,500.

DNR will randomly select three Angler Award achievers from each of the regional divisions ─ nontidal, Chesapeake, Atlantic ─ to receive checks for $2,000. Additionally, anyone who catches and registers an Award fish in all three regions during the 2015 contest will automatically be entered into the Master Angler prize drawing for $2,000. For those wondering where the famed Diamond Jim swam off to, after more than 10 years as the Maryland Fishing Challenge’s most sought after catch, he officially retired after last summer’s finale to give other species a chance to shine.

Members of the online Maryland Youth Fishing Club who post their catches on the Youth Angler’s Log will be entered to win guided trips sponsored by local fishing and conservation organizations. The randomly chosen winners will be presented their prizes at the finale.

DNR is continuing the Invasive Species Award component, which recognizes anglers for reporting their harvest of blue catfish, flathead catfish and northern snakehead. Participants can enter this category with an Angler Award, a new state record fish, or by submitting a report of their catch to the DNR Angler’s Log. and Costa Glasses are sponsoring prizes for this category. Invasive fish must be killed in order to qualify.

Catch and release anglers can enter the Maryland Fishing Challenge with clear photographs of their game fish meeting the minimum size requirements against a verifiable stick or tape measure, and certifying their photos at an Angler Award Center. DNR does not recognize released invasive species.

The Governor’s Striped Bass Conservation Award, which began this year, recognizes any angler who chooses to return their live striped bass catch of 40 inches or longer to Maryland waters anytime fishing regulations do not require them to release it. Those who register their trophy striped bass as a Maryland Fishing Challenge catch and release entry will be recognized and eligible for prizes at the finale.

Maryland offers a wealth of public fishing locations, which can be quickly located using the new interactive Angler Access Map. Anglers may also find professional fishing adventures using the Map of Licensed Charter Boats and Fishing Guides.

DNR encourages everyone to take advantage of Maryland’s Free Fishing Days, June 6, June 13 and July 4. Or visit a License Free Fishing Areas with 23 locations, from Ocean City to Frederick County.