Woman angling for fishing status

Published: Monday, January 5, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 5, 2004 at 1:25 a.m.
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Judie Lander-Stamper poses with her prize-winning bass, which weighed at the time 16 pounds, 15 ounces, out at the dock of her home along the Suwannee River.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun


Aspiring anglers

Florida's Big Catch Program through the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission recognizes three categories of anglers:

  • Specialists - have caught five big fish of the same species.

  • Master Anglers - have caught five big fish of different species.

  • Elite Anglers - have caught big fish of 10 different species.

  • OLD TOWN - Judie Lander-Stamper spent a year standing in her back yard casting with a fishing rod into a five-gallon bucket. It was kind of an odd activity for someone who has the fish-laden Suwannee River flowing right outside her front door.
    What she was doing was perfecting her casting technique for her husband.
    "When James says cast there, he means there, not 2 inches away, and I usually get a bite when I cast exactly where he says," Lander-Stamper said.
    The result of all the practicing and the coaching from James Lander is that Lander-Stamper is the only woman among the nine people to be named a Master Angler in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's Big Catch Program. Lander-Stamper's next goal is to become the first man or woman to achieve Elite status in the program.
    Her interest in fishing was minimal to non-existent before she married James a decade ago, but his fanaticism about the sport became her motivation to learn.
    "I was a widow - a fishing widow - before I even married James (Stamper), so I figured I might as well learn to fish," Lander-Stamper said. "I realized that if I wanted to spend time with him, I had to go fishing."
    According to Karen Parker, a spokeswoman for the commission, Master Anglers like Lander-Stamper have documented catches of five big fish of different species, while those designated as Elite Anglers have documented catches of big fish from 10 different species. The definition of a big fish varies among the 33 designated species and ranges from 8 inches and a half pound for a spotted sunfish to 68 inches and 70 pounds for an alligator gar. To preserve fish stocks, participants are encouraged to release their fish after they have been measured or weighed for the program and seen by at least one other person.
    "Then we send them a certificate to commemorate their catch," Parker said.
    Lander-Stamper has a wall filled with certificates and a page filled with photos on the Big Catch Web site at http://floridafisheries.com/bigcatch/lande-ms.html. So far she has caught eight of the 10 species required for Elite status.
    "I fished as a kid, but I never really liked it because we used worms and I couldn't stand them," Lander-Stamper said. "Now I use shiner minnows - a live bait that's relatively clean."
    She also uses what she considers her lucky gear - a fluorescent green bobber on a saltwater rod and reel wound with spider wire, the type of fishing line most often associated with saltwater fishing, not the freshwater river fishing she prefers.
    "We use the heavier line because of where you have to fish to catch bass and the other river fish," her husband said. "She has to fish through the treetops hanging over the river and the log jams in the river."
    Lander-Stamper said one of her favorite catches was when the shiner minnow she was casting lept out of the water up onto a log and a bass following jumped out of the water, too, before taking the bait - the shiner minnow - right off the log.
    Since retiring a few months ago from her job installing software for human resource departments in hospitals, Lander-Stamper has been able to devote more time to fishing. She and her husband, a retired Army Lt. Colonel, have been entering tournaments and will be traveling to Argentina this winter to fish for peacock bass, a species they have been studying.
    "When you know how a fish will act in its natural habitat - and every fish species is different - then you will know what type of bait to use and how to present it so that it looks natural and will encourage the fish to bite," Lander-Stamper said.
    The next thing Lander-Stamper plans to bite off is another contest. In addition to striving for Elite Angler status in Florida, she is preparing to enter the International Game Fish Association's competition for anglers.
    "That's another story completely," Lander-Stamper said, "but now that I am retired and we can travel, I'm going after that, too."
    Karen Voyles can be reached at (352) 486-5058 or voylesk@gvillesun.com.

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