Teen angler from Jersey wins first TroutBlitz contest

Alex Puchalski with a nice Salmon River steelhead. Puchalski, 18, is the first winner of TU's monthly TroutBlitz contests that run through October. 
By Chris Hunt
Alex Puchalski cut his angling teeth chasing bass, pickerel and panfish around his East Rutherford, N.J., home, and graduated to the fly rod just three years ago. It was good move, because today, he's the proud owner of a 72-piece fly assortment courtesy of TU corporate partner FlyAssortments.com, and all because he took photos of his fish and uploaded them to TU's TroutBlitz site over the last month.
“I was at a lake with my dad, and saw some kids fishing, so I asked my dad for a rod,” he said of his fishing origins. “Then, a friend of mine started fly fishing, and it looked like a lot of fun. So I started fly fishing.”
Between May 23 and June 30, Puchalski recorded 16 separate observations to the TroutBlitz site from this New Jersey fishing adventures. Most of his angling occurs on storied Jersey waters like the Raritan, the Musconetcong and the Pequest, but, he said, he does occasionally chase salmon and steelhead in the Salmon River near Pulaski, N.Y. 
TroutBlitz is a TU angler-science project developed to encourage anglers to photographically record their catches and upload those photos through a simple interface that allows TU's Science Team to record them. From those photos and the location of the fish that anglers catch, TU can glean quite a bit of data. It's easy to particpate—simply visit the TroutBlitz site, create a free account and start fishing. 
“We had strong participation from a number of anglers the first month,” said Jack Williams, TU’s senior scientist. “It may not seem like much, but this is strong data that we can use to catalog native trout persistence, the presence of non-native trout in waters where they don’t belong and the overall health of the ecosystems where our anglers are catching fish.”
Another angler, Malisha Small of Longview, Wash., recorded two separate subspecies of trout during the first month of TroutBlitz, earning her a 36-piece caddis fly assortment, also courtesy of FlyAssortments.com. 
This San Juan worm assortment will go to the angler who records the most observations in July.
The angler who records the highest number of trout species or subspecies will win this Woolly Bugger/Leach assortment.
And it's not too late to start fishing for science and prizes. The contest runs through October, with new fly assortments awarded every month to anglers to upload the most observations and the largest number of trout species and subspecies. For July, the angler who records the most observations will win an assortment of San Juan worm flies that work great on trout waters throughout the country. The angler who records the highest number of species or subspecies will win a Woolly Bugger/leach assortment that every angler ought to have in his or her collection.
Williams asked anglers to really try and take good photos of the trout they're recording—close-up shots, or even underwater shots are best, and all fish should be photographed alive at the time of the photo. 
"We don't have any problems with anglers harvesting trout where that is legal," he said, "but all photos submitted should be of live fish because it makes identification much easier."
At the end of the year, the angler who uploads the most observations will win a FlyAssortments.com "war chest" of flies worth more than $200. All monthly winners will also be awarded a one-year membership to Trout Unlimited. 
"Congratulations to Alexa and Malisha for their good work helping TU identify where trout swim all across America," said Wayne Richey, one of the proprietors at FlyAssortments.com. "We're thrilled to be able to help with this effort, and I know for a fact that both of these anglers are going be a lot better equipped when it comes to flies."
Chris Hunt is TU's national communications director. He works from Idaho Falls, Idaho.

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