Andrew Cezarz shows off a 30-inch rainbow trout he pulled from Lake Erie last June. (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation)

The state's top fish catches from 2016 were recognized late Thursday by the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

Entries came in from 39 counties statewide and Chautauqua County placed in the state's top five counties for anglers, officials said.

The others were Suffolk, Warren, Onondaga and Essex counties.

"The Angler Achievement Awards program recognizes anglers that catch any of the 43 eligible fish species that exceed minimum qualifying lengths or weights," according to a DEC statement.

The program consists of three separate categories, including catch-and-release, an annual award for a kept fish and a state record catch.

State environmental officials said two state records were set or tied in 2016, including:

  • a new record for a freshwater drum fish, at 29 pounds, 14 ounces, that was snagged June 4 by Amelia Whalen from Lake Champlain.
  • Patrick Hildenbrand's rare eight pound, four ounce smallmouth bass from the St. Lawrence River last Aug. 28, which tied a 21-year-old record catch from Lake Erie

(New York State DEC)

At least a pair of four-foot or longer muskellunge were caught by Chautauqua Lake anglers in 2016 as well as pair of three-foot long trout from Lake Erie, the DEC reported.

A 38¼- inch lake trout caught in Lake Erie off Chautauqua County by Robert Swiatek was among three other notable catches individually recognized by the DEC.

That giant fish was released back into the lake.

Locally, Rich Hartman earned a first-place annual award for his two pound, three ounce catch of a white bass from Lake Erie off Chautauqua County last Sept. 21, the DEC reported.

Besides official recognition of their catch from the state, anglers are presented with a lapel pin to commemorating the achievement, the DEC reported.

Record holders are also awarded wood plaques.

Here are some of the other anglers recognized in DEC photos for their catches in Western New York's waters:



Anglers seeking information about the program can call (518) 402-8891 or email fwfish@dec.ny.gov.

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