IWFA Junior Angler Fishing Guidelines and Rules

Freshwater & Saltwater Fishing

Junior angler monthly awards align with the guidelines followed by the regular members of the IWFA (certificates given at the 1st monthly award, 10th, 25th, etc.).  To be eligible for the annual Top Saltwater Angler Award and Top Freshwater Angler Award, anglers must have an IWFA sponsor. The Top Angler Service Award is to be considered if angler fulfills criteria.

A junior angler member’s dues must be paid to be able to compete for monthly and annual awards.  Affidavits received during a delinquency period will not count.

  • Members must do their own casting. From the time that a fish strikes or takes a bait or lure, the angler must hook, fight, and land or boat the fish without the aid of any other person. If a rod holder is used, once the fish is hooked, the angler must remove the rod from the rod holder as quickly as possible.
  • No wire line allowed.
  • Any line class or IGFA regulated equipment may be used.
  • An official release occurs when the swivel, leader knot or trace comes in contact with the rod tip. If a leader is not used, the release occurs when the angler or fishing companion touches the class line within two feet of the hook.

General Best Handling Practices

Circle hooks are encouraged when fishing with live or dead natural bait.  The hook should be removed if possible and will not cause additional harm to angler or fish.  If the hook cannot be removed, the leader should be cut as close to the hook as possible.

To remove your fish from the water, anglers should use either hands or a knotless, rubberized landing net to minimize slime and scale loss. Lip gripping devices may be used to help subdue fish. However, large fish should not be hoisted vertically out of the water, as this can cause damage to jaw muscle and bone as well as to internal organs. If supporting the fish with your thumb in its mouth, do not overextend the jaw.  The best method for removing fish from the water by hand is to grip the fish or the lower jaw and support the fish’s underside. Again, the point is always to hold fish horizontally and not vertically.

Photo Handling Policy

All pictures of fish submitted to the IWFA and its Junior Angler Program must be supported under the belly and held horizontally.


Considerable time and care should be exercised when releasing fish. Fish should be placed in the water and held by the base of the tail. If the fish is does not swim away from your grasp on its own, gently move it forward in the water to get water flowing over the gills. For best results, move the fish in the forward direction only instead of back and forth. A fish’s gills somewhat resemble the pages of a book and are designed for water flow in only one direction. Moving the fish in a slow circle or gently towing it behind the boat will accomplish this.

Angling Regulations for Offshore

  1. From the time that a fish strikes or takes a bait or lure, the angler must hook, fight, and land or boat the fish without the aid of any other person, except as provided in these regulations. 
  2. If a double line is used, the intent of the regulations is that the fish will be fought on the single line most of the time that it takes to land the fish. 
  3. A harness may be attached to the reel or rod, but not to the fighting chair. The harness may be replaced or adjusted by a person other than the angler. 
  4. Use of a rod belt or waist gimbal is permitted. 
  5. When angling from a boat, once the leader is brought within the grasp of the mate, or the end of the leader is wound to the rod tip, more than one person is permitted to hold the leader.

The following acts will disqualify a catch:

  1. Failure to comply with equipment or angling regulations. 
  2. The act of persons other than the angler in touching any part of the rod, reel, or line (including the double line) either bodily or with any device, from the time a fish strikes or takes the bait or lure, until the fish is either landed or released, or in giving any aid other than that allowed in the rules and regulations. If an obstacle to the passage of the line through the rod guides has to be removed from the line, then the obstacle (whether chum, float line, rubber band, or other material) shall be held and cut free. Under no circumstances should the line be held or touched by anyone other than the angler during this process. 
  3. Resting the rod in a rod holder, on the gunwale of the boat, or any other object while playing the fish. 
  4. Handling or using a hand line or rope attached in any manner to the angler's line or leader for the purpose of holding or lifting the fish. 
  5. Shooting, harpooning, or lancing any fish (including sharks and halibuts) at any stage of the catch. 
  6. Chumming with or using as bait the flesh, blood, skin, or any part of mammals other than hair or pork rind used in lures designed for trolling or casting. 
  7. Using a boat or device to beach or drive a fish into shallow water in order to deprive the fish of its normal ability to swim. 
  8. Changing the rod or reel while the fish is being played.
  9. Splicing, removing, or adding to the line while the fish is being played. 
  10. Intentionally foul hooking a fish.
  11. Catching a fish in a manner that the double line never leaves the rod tip.
  12. Using a size or kind of bait that is illegal to possess.
  13. Attaching the angler's line or leader to part of a boat or other object for the purpose of holding or lifting the fish.
  14. If a fish escapes before gaffing or netting and is recaptured by any method other than as outlined in the angling rules.
  15. Holding or touching an angler in a manner that assists them in fighting the fish or takes pressure off of the angler. Touching or briefly holding the angler to prevent them from falling does not constitute a disqualification. 

The following situations will disqualify a catch:

  1. When a rod breaks (while the fish is being played) in a manner that reduces the length of the tip below minimum dimensions or severely impairs its angling characteristics. 
  2. Mutilation to the fish, prior to landing or boating the catch, caused by sharks, other fish, mammals, or propellers that remove or penetrate the flesh. (Injuries caused by leader or line, scratches, old healed scars or regeneration deformities are not considered to be disqualifying injuries.) Any mutilation on the fish must be shown in a photograph and fully explained in a separate report accompanying the record application. 
  3. If a rod holder is used, once the fish is hooked, the angler must remove rod.
  4. When a fish is hooked or entangled on more than one line.

A member may be dropped from the Association for the following reasons:

  1. Rules violation.
  2. Serious misconduct during an IWFA sponsored or represented event.
  3. Conduct tending to disturb the wellbeing and/or reputation of the organization.
  4. Intentionally falsifying affidavits.