There wasn’t a stage, a big pay out or a crowd clapping and cheering when Josh Dolin made tournament history. Dolin’s accomplishment wasn’t marked with ceremony, but the self-described dirtbag angler will be remembered as the first kayaker to reach Level 4 Master Angler in the Virginia Angler Recognition Program.

Josh Dolin Reaches Level 4 Master Angler

The year-long, state-run program awards a plaque and patch to anglers who catch a fish large enough to be recognized as a trophy. There are 30 eligible species, Josh Dolin has scored 20 of them from his kayak. “I am one of six anglers to reach level four and the only person to do it in a kayak,” Dolin boasts.

Josh Dolin is a Level 4 Master Angler by Kayak
This trophy walleye was one of Dolin’s toughest challenges. | Photo: Josh Dolin

For the past 14 years, Dolin has traveled to every corner of Virginia spending hours on the water and nights camping in parking lots. The well-traveled angler has been chasing citations and sharing his experiences on his website since he left high school sports and wanted another challenge.

“I went from facing opponents on a field to facing Mother Nature,” he laughs. And Mother Nature has thrown Dolin some curveballs. “The toughest species to catch was walleye,” he recalls.

Dolin says walleye are not common in Virginia, and the best shot is in February and March. One night, after a long, cold day on a swollen river, Dolin got the bite he’d been waiting for. “It was the largest walleye I’ve ever seen,” he recalls, estimating the fish at 10 pounds. “As I put it in the net the hooks snagged and it rolled free,” he cringes.

Not to be beaten, 24 hours later, Dolin returned to the river and scored a walleye large enough to earn a citation. “The years of hunting were over,” he says.

Dolin’s biggest surprise came from his most recent trophy. As the sun set on a long, cold day, Dolin was bringing his rods. “I thought I was snagged on the bottom,” he remembers. Something heavy was peeling four-pound test from his reel. At the end of the thin line was a 26.5-inch freshwater drum and Dolin’s twentieth species.

Dolin’s accomplishment will be recognized with a certificate and a patch. After years traveling the state and sleeping in his truck, Dolin celebrated his success, but he’s not done.

“The State added five more eligible species, so I have other colorful and mysterious creatures to learn about,” he says.

For the full story behind Josh Dolin’s quest for Master Angler, go to

This article was first published in Kayak Angler Issue 43. Subscribe to Kayak Angler’s print and digital editions here, or browse the archives here.

This trophy walleye was one of Dolin’s toughest challenges. | Feature photo: Josh Dolin


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“Thank God my dad wasn’t a podiatrist,” jokes Ric about following in the footsteps of a famous outdoor writer. After graduating from Radford University and serving two years in Russia with the Peace Corps, Ric returned to Virginia Beach and started writing for The Fisherman magazine, where his dad was editor. When the kayak fishing scene exploded, Ric was among the first to get onboard. His 2007 book, The Complete Kayak Fisherman is one of the first tomes to introduce anglers to paddle fishing and hundreds of articles and seminars have brought countless anglers into the fold. When he’s not chasing every fish that swims, Ric teaches English at a school for at-risk teens.


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