CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Game and Fish Department said on Wednesday that Buffalo resident Jared Bailey has become the first “Ultimate Angler” in the Sheridan Region.
In order to become an “Ultimate Angler,” a person has to catch at least ten trophy-sized fish of different species. Bailey caught nine of his ten trophy-sized fish in Sheridan Region waters. The tenth fish was a brook trout he caught at the Goldeneye Reservoir near Casper.
“It took me a full year to complete this challenge (June to June). I had some good luck catching the brook trout and bluegill through the ice, which helped motivate me to continue after the rest of the qualifying fish,” Bailey said in Game and Fish’s announcement. “I thought I only had nine fish for a long time then realized I had caught a qualifying walleye from Keyhole in late summer in 2019.”
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Bailey told Game and Fish that his most unexpected trophy catch was a tiger muskie he landed out of Healy Reservoir.
“I have caught some smaller ones there before, but I wasn’t targeting tiger muskie that day- I was bass fishing,” he said. “I like to jig on the bottom in the rocks for bass and was doing just that when I felt the bite and set the hook. I thought ‘Wow! This must be a giant bass!’ After the first few minutes of the muskie pulling drag, it buried itself in weeds and it took me almost 10 minutes to work it out. Shortly after, I pulled the muskie close enough to the surface and was able to see it. I was by myself and had nobody to net it for me.”
“The adrenaline kicked in and I was trying to find a way to keep tension on the fish, grab the net, and not break my line. I have had countless muskies cut through the line with their teeth, so I loosened the drag on my reel dramatically and just let the fish run. I was in my little 16′ boat with electric motor, and ended up chasing the fish around for a while to lessen the amount of line I had out. I only use 8-pound line and didn’t want to risk it. Finally, I was able to net the fish and set my phone on the spare seat to take the picture. I released this fish and caught my breath. It was a great fight.”
Bailey said he learned about the “Ultimate Angler” challenge from another angler.
“He told me there was a fun way to try and catch different species of fish in Wyoming so I looked online and found the challenge details in late winter of 2019,” Bailey said. “I have a cousin who completed this challenge so he had bragging rights already. I wanted to catch the qualifying fish and finish the challenge so I could also have bragging rights! We continue to have friendly competitions every time we go fishing.”
When he began the challenge, Bailey said he didn’t have a specific plan on how he would achieve it.
“After catching a qualifying smallmouth bass out of Keyhole, I only needed the largemouth bass, brown trout, cutthroat, and tiger trout,” Bailey said. “I knew I could catch them all around the Buffalo area, so I just focused on those species until I caught them. Surprisingly, I was able to catch them all within one month of each other.”
Bailey said he spends most of his free time fishing.
“It has always been a priority for me,” he told Game and Fish. “In the winter, I like to ice fish for trout and sometimes crappie and perch in Keyhole. When the ice melts, I go after big brown trout and rainbows in the lakes around Buffalo.”
“During the summer, most of my time is spent in the Bighorn Mountains fishing the lakes and streams up there. I usually hike to the higher altitude lakes and have a list of lakes in the Cloud Peak Wilderness that I would like to go to. My ‘bucket list’ is to fish all of the lakes in the Cloud Peak Wilderness. So far, I have caught fish out of 31 lakes, but I believe there are over 180 lakes with fish in them, so it should keep me busy for a while.”
Anglers are able to earn the status of “Master Angler” by catching a trophy sized fish of one species. They earn the title “Trophy Angler” after catching five different trophy-sized fish species.
“What qualifies as a trophy size has been determined based on historical Game and Fish sample data,” the department said. “The qualifying sizes represent the top five percent of fish. For example, for brown trout, the typical length is 18 inches. The minimum qualifying length for Master Angler is 23 inches.”