Sheridan resident Joe Gilbert is the newest Ultimate Angler in the Sheridan Region. The program features three levels of challenge – Master, Trophy and Ultimate Angler. Master Anglers must catch at least one fish species of qualifying length, Trophy Anglers must catch at least five species and Ultimate Anglers must catch at least ten species. They document their achievements with photos.
Gilbert, who retired in 2016 after a 36-year Game and Fish career, is an avid angler and hunter. It took him three years to complete the Ultimate Angler program and his efforts took him throughout the state. He is one of 44 anglers statewide to achieve Ultimate Angler status and just the fifth person in the Sheridan Region.
Why did you decide to pursue this fishing challenge?
I first heard of the Master Angler program in 2020. After catching a 31-inch, 10-pound walleye from Pathfinder Reservoir, I thought I would submit the fish for a Master Angler award as it was the largest walleye I have ever caught. Since I’m retired and love to fish, I thought it might be fun to try to reach the Trophy Angler or Ultimate Angler awards. With my start in the summer of 2020, I continued to catch qualifying fish in 2021 and was awarded the Trophy Angler award that July after catching a qualifying Largemouth Bass in Lake Cameahwait in Fremont County. By the spring of 2023 I just needed two more fish for Ultimate Angler. I caught qualifying fish in May and July, taking just over three years to catch my ten fish.
Did you do a significant amount of travel to complete it?
I traveled to seven counties and 10 different bodies of water during my quest. All lakes and reservoirs were open to public fishing and all of my fish were released. Two of these locations were lakes that I had never fished before. Eight of my fish were caught from my boat and two were caught from lakes in the Cloud Peak Wilderness that I hiked in to.
Was there one species that was the most challenging to catch?
The species that was the most challenging for me was kokanee salmon. I still haven’t caught a qualifying fish after three summers of trying in three separate fisheries – Lake DeSmet, Alcova Reservoir and Pathfinder Reservoir.
Was there a species that was new to you that you had not caught before?
The one species that was new to me was tiger muskie. I caught a 40-inch, 17-pound fish in Healy Reservoir in June 2022. I landed the fish on 8-pound test line with no steel leader after it took a topwater lure. It leapt completely out of the water twice during the fight and was certainly the most hair-raising battle.
All told I caught 241 inches of fish or just over 20 feet. A 24.1-inch average length is a testimony to the quality of our public fisheries in Wyoming and the great work that our fisheries biologists do to provide excellent opportunities for Wyoming anglers. I really had fun with this challenge and may try the Cutt Slam next.