Virginia now has its first ever Level V Master Angler in the form of Stephen Miklandric, who completed the task with a citation Freshwater Drum caught in the Dan River on Sunday.
This marks the first time in Virginia’s angling history that one individual has certified a citation size fish in all 25 freshwater categories within the VA Angling Recognition Program.
The accomplishment took Miklandric 32 years, 10 months, and 21 days to complete after registering his first citation on May 28, 1986 at the age of 19. His first citation was a James River Smallmouth.
“I’ve been fishing my entire life and actually caught my first citation on May 28, 1986 at the age of 19. It was a James River smallmouth bass and since then it’s been a wonderful puzzle for me. Many pieces of all shapes and sizes to discover and place together over the course of three decades”, said Miklandric in an interview with VDGIF, “so many adventures and experiences that have taken me all over the state in search of various species.”
Miklandric was aware that he was just one fish away from this big accomplishment and set out to target the Freshwater drum.
“When I reached the point where I had citations in 24 out of the 25 gamefish species present here in Virginia, the Freshwater Drum was the last remaining. Naturally, this meant that I had to focus on the bodies of water that contained them. This meant Buggs Island Lake and the rivers that feed it. I had to research them, learn about their habits and where they can be found based on time of year. Again, it’s all in the details or puzzles pieces as I like to think of it. Freshwater Drum are bottom feeders and they prefer sandy bottoms. I knew that it being April, they would be moving into the rivers to spawn just as the white bass do every April. So now, it was just a matter of putting my time in once again. It can never happen if you don’t put your time in! You will never learn or get in position to have it happen if you don’t put your time in! On Sunday, April 7, 2019 I choose the Dan River to fish. Now important to note, after all of the terrible flooding that occurred last year, the contour of the river had changed in many places. I found new fishing spots that were created along the river. Especially where smaller creeks enter the river. They were scrubbed clean and sand was deposited heavily. I said to myself this looks really good for drum. I used a 3” plastic shad body (pearl white) on a ¼ ounce jig head to mimic a baitfish appearance. I figured the bigger drum would most likely prefer a bait fish meal. I made sure to bump the bottom and feel the lure scratch the bottom of the sandy river floor with each retrieve. Then BAMM! The rest was history,” said Miklandric.