March 14, 2018
Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
FLIPPIN – When it comes to big fish, many anglers have a lot of tall tales. But one Arkansas angler can prove that he has more trophy-size fish under his belt than anyone. Last year, Roger Pyzocha of Flippin caught his 23rd Arkansas fish that qualified for the AGFC’s Master Angler Program.
Pyzocha had been just behind Thomas Hudson Jr. of Blytheville until he scored a 4 lb., 2 oz. smallmouth from Bull Shoals to force a tie at 22 master angler awards in April. He followed that up with a 3 lb., 15 oz. white bass in August to take the record.
Pyzocha obviously knows how to catch big fish, as all of his trophy-class fish have come within the last 4 years. “I’m originally from Massachusetts and have probably won more awards than anyone in that state for angling,” Pyzocha said. “I’ve caught more than 500 pin-size fish (Massachusetts’ equivalent of the Master Angler program), and even had 16 gold pins for the largest fish in a certain species all year.”
Among Pyzocha’s accolades are commendations from the Massachusetts legislature and governor, as well as an induction to the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin, in 1994.
Although he has yet to catch a master-angler trout, it was trophy class fish from the Bull Shoals Tailwater that caught his attention and helped him relocate to Arkansas for his retirement. As a taxidermist, he saw many big fish and always asked where the angler caught it.
“Lake Ontario and Lake Winnipesaukee were common, but one angler brought me a 7-pound rainbow and said it was from the White River,” Pyzocha said. “A few years later he brought me a 12-pound brown trout he caught there while on vacation, too. I started to look into this place.”
Fishing and hunting are extremely important to Pyzocha, and he says just looking at the hunting harvests helped make up his mind.
“At the time, Arkansas had the world-record brown trout and walleye, and the hunting harvest was amazing,” Pyzocha said. “In Massachusetts, if you hear about 10,000 deer killed in the state, it’s a good year. They may harvest 100 bears if they’re lucky and maybe two to three thousand turkeys. Arkansas kills more than 200,000 deer each year.”
Add in the ability to get away from the crowds and huge cities of the Northeast, and Pyzocha’s decision was made.
Most of his catches come from Bull Shoals, only 20 minutes from his home.
“I fish Norfork and the White River, too, but I spend most of my time on Bull Shoals,” Pyzocha said. “Back home, we had one reservoir that was 20,000 acres that was drinking water for the town of Boston, so it had a ton of restrictions. Other than that, the rest of the places I fished were puddles compared to Bull Shoals. I can go there every day and fish a different spot.”
As an angler from the North, Pyzocha’s Master Angler Award list has one noticeable absence. Trophy-class walleye, which are much more popular as sport fish in colder climates, have eluded him so far, but he’s working on it.
“As I get a little older, I’m not as excited about night fishing,” Pyzocha said. “And that’s when I caught a lot of trophy walleye back home. I’m a member of a local walleye club and am really looking to figure out a way to get that pin. I’ve just missed the pin-size with a few 8-pounders, but none at the 9-pound mark to get that Master Angler Award.”
Lauren Cormier, Master Angler Program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, knows many master-angler worthy fish are caught each year and not turned in.
“Some lakes known for big bass aren’t even in the list, so we’re hoping to have more anglers come forward with their catches,” Cormier said. “They’re missing out on a great chance to contribute to our database and get some recognition as our partners in conservation.”
To qualify for a Master Angler Award, a fish must meet certain weight requirements for their species. The angler then needs to submit a photo of their catch with details about where and when it was caught on an official application form.