Sanctuary Classic

by Olivia Fielding

Catch! Click! Release! It’s time for the fourth annual Sanctuary Classic, a free fishing and photo contest that celebrates recreational fishing in America’s national marine sanctuaries.

Here’s how it works. From now until September 7, get your friends, family or just yourself out to your nearest national marine sanctuary (there are 13 across the country) – and catch some fish! Size doesn’t matter. What matters is the awesome photos you take while you’re there.

little girl holding up a fish she caught
Six year old Sierra Davis caught this Kupipi (Black Spot Sergeant Fish) while fishing the waters of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. (Credit: Sanctuary Classic)

That’s because a pair of Costa Sunglasses will be awarded each week to the person (it could be you!) who submits the picture that best exemplifies fishing within sanctuary waters – like fishing with your family and fishing responsibly. And at the end of the contest, eight $1,000 youth scholarships will be awarded from the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. The 2014 winners’ photos can be found on the Classic’s website.

And there’s more! This year’s Classic includes a Lionfish Eradication Contest. For participants living near waters containing pesky, invasive, tasty-good lionfish, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation will award autographed Guy Harvey shirts to six people who catch and remove the most lionfish from the water.

diver catching a lionfish
NOAA diver and researcher Michelle Johnston captures a lionfish in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Ryan Eckert/NOAA.)

Sponsored by the Sportsfishing Conservancy, Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the contest is the perfect excuse to unplug from your TV, computer and smartphone and venture into the amazing outdoors.

"The Classic is always a lot of fun, and it's a great reminder that most national marine sanctuaries are open to sustainable recreational fishing, which we support and encourage,” said Jenny Armstrong, Classic coordinator. “I love seeing families get out on the water together, and I hope as many people participate as possible. It's easy, free, and fun!"

Really, is there anything else we need to say to convince you? There’s no excuse not to join in!

boy holding up a fish he just caught
David Omura caught this Palani during a Keiki Fishing tournament in Maunalua Bay which is part of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. (Credit: Sanctuary Classic)

All participants must register online, agree to conservation regulations, and follow all federal, state, and local fishing regulations. In other words, keep it legal. If you’re required to have a fishing license, get one. “But I’m taking a photo for the Sanctuary Classic!” isn’t likely to get you out of any fines. And to help you out, we’ve partnered with Great Outdoors Mobile to create an app that can answer your sanctuary-related fishing questions on the fly.

Catch-and-release fishing is encouraged! So are sustainable, light fishing techniques and conservation practices. After all, you do want your children and grandchildren to be able to catch fish, right?

To learn more about the 2015 Sanctuary Classic, including rules, regulations and how to sign up, visit And you can learn more about recreational fishing in sanctuaries here. We can’t wait to see your photos!