Weighing It All Up

John Bailey

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Trout.jpg

A superb trout, but a guesstimate will surely suffice?

A friend has just sent me a veiled diatribe in a recently published book. In it, although I am not named personally, but someone very like me is accused of not weighing a certain fish, but of guesstimating its weight for some vague gain after the event. Weird. The estimates were suggested by the half dozen witnesses to the capture, and what gain I or anyone could hope to have from the weight of a fish is beyond me. I know this chap of old, so nothing he can sling at me either surprises, annoys, or upsets.

He is very much of the “weigh them all school”, and the incident raises a very much more important issue altogether. Should fish be weighed or should they not? Is the added stress of weighing significantly increasing potential harm? Does the actual weight of a capture ever really matter that much?

For many years, I barely weighed any fish. I was travelling with Europeans, and I rarely saw them even consider weighing huchen, say, or taimen or Arctic char. Even when it came to recording so-called coarse fish, measurements were occasionally taken if the fish were considered to be of trophy proportions.

Grayling.jpg

Not even this heart-stopping grayling was weighed… better to get it back quick!

However, these days I travel hardly at all for my fishing, and much of that fishing is for coarse fish. Today, I’ll admit that I will from time to time weigh specimens for friends, if they look like being PBs, or fish especially notable for the water where they were caught.

I like to think I carry out the process quickly, humanely, and with a minimum of fuss. Even so, I do not encourage weighing, and generally my considered guesstimates are pretty close and good enough for most situations.

Would I be right in saying there are many scenarios in which we would not consider weighing fish? A catch and release trout water, a river especially? Any UK-caught salmon in this day and age? A fish caught in especially warm conditions? A fish showing any sign of stress or injury?

I suspect that I will weigh special fish again for people in the future, but I’ll always consider the need carefully. And frankly, if a guesstimate will do, that works for most non-obsessive anglers in the majority of cases I would imagine!


The post 'Weighing It All Up' first appeared in Fish&Fly Magazine.

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Tangled

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The last time I weighed a fish was as teenager back in 1815. A guide I had in Argentina had a weighing net when I caught an 18lb sea trout but really, all I needed to know was that it was friggin' huge. And I sort of knew that. Who cares?
 

jc123

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completely agree, fish welfare aside, i don't see the point either i mean who cares that your perch was 3lb 1 3/4 oz or your brownie was 4lb 15 oz ( it'l end up being a 5 pounder anyway)
 

BobP

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Back in the day I have weighed thousands of fish, but that was when we were doing fish population surveys and were using the EEC Freshwater Fisheries Directive which was linked to water quality. 15gm.sq,m for a game fishery and 20gm/sq.m for a coarse fishery.

All that is long since gone. I weighed two rainbows for my 10 year old grandson, but only when they were dead. I measured a few big browns from the Kennet this year. 24" was the biggest and another half dozen or so at 20". Anything that looked below that went straight back.
 

The Endrick Spider

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Weighing fish is lost on me, never weighed a fish in my life, what's the point of it?
I was very friendly with a guy who is no longer with us, he never ever weighed a fish either. When you asked him what weight was in any of the big sea trout he caught he replied by saying, too much for four but not enough for five where a really big sea trout would be classed as being family size. Every fish he caught was measured in portions not weight.
 

jerryrum

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I have always measured WBT in inches. I realise that this doesn't do justice to to a fit, fat hulk vs a skinny, worn out wimp, but I don't catch many of the former.

When I started catching coarse fish, on the fly, other club members often asked me about weights. Influenced by this I bought a set of scales. Inevitably, whenever I remembered the scales I caught tiddlers, and when I did catch something worth recording, the scales were in the car.

Electronic scales ran out of batteries, spring scales became unsprung and eventually I gave up altogether.

Now I have reverted to my own personal measuring system:
Tiny
Hand sized
Decent
Pretty Decent
Massive
 

Mr Notherone

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I too have never weighed a fish. I have some measurements on my scoop net and I know my PB for wbt and grayling in inches. Catching big fish can be fun, but it's so far down the list of reasons I go fishing it's not relevant.
 

charlieH

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Would I be right in saying there are many scenarios in which we would not consider weighing fish? A catch and release trout water, a river especially? Any UK-caught salmon in this day and age? A fish caught in especially warm conditions? A fish showing any sign of stress or injury?

John, I'm quoting this one paragraph because it mentions salmon, and my response will mainly focus on that. I realise that one of the reasons for your input on these forums is to spark debate, but I have to say with respect that I think this thread is one of your less clever efforts! To demonise the weighing of fish on its own is nonsense. There is a very valid discussion to be had about the way we handle fish, certainly, but weighing is just one part of that process. As with any other aspect of fish handling, it can be done well or badly.

These days, the majority of my fishing is in pursuit of salmon. And yes, sometimes my fish are weighed! But much of my fishing is with very experienced gillies, whose fish handling skills are excellent. They will usually keep the fish in the net and in the water throughout the unhooking process. They carry Maclean weigh nets, so if a fish is to be weighed, it only needs to be out of the water for a matter of a few seconds, and doesn't ever need to be held in the hand. Similarly, if the angler wants a picutre of themselves with the fish, they will make sure that everything is ready for the shot, and only then will the fish will be lifted out of the water for a few seconds before it is released. These guys really care about the fish in their rivers (as do you, I don't doubt), and I'm confident that they take pains to minimise any harm.

I would be prepared to bet that the brown trout in your first picture was out of the water for considerably longer than any of the salmon I caught this season! It has clearly been lifted and carried some way from the water. Were the hands wetted before touching the fish, I wonder? I won't leap to judgement based on a single picture, but they don't obviously look wet to me! So to use your words, when it comes to handling fish "quickly, humanely, and with a minimum of fuss", I believe that the treatment all the salmon I caught this season received - including the two or three that were weighed - would certainly compare favourably with that trout.

Measuring fish is similar. If well done, the fish shouldn't ever need to leave the water, and can be kept on their side in the shallows - ideally in the net, to minimise handling - during the process. The same is true of photography - if it's only the fish that is to be recorded, not the grinning angler holding his/her catch, it's often not even necessary to lift the fish above the surface of the water, as the grayling in your second picture was. Not all of the salmon that I caught this season without a gillie present were photographed, but those that were remained in the water, only held around the tail (again, to minimise contact with hands).

Of course, I acknowledge that it isn't always possible to keep the fish in the water; sometimes if the bank is steep and the water deep they need to be lifted out in order to unhook them. In that case, any responsible fisherman or gillie will make sure that the fish if out of the water for the least possible time. You won't see any of my fish photographed lying on the bank with the fly artfully posed on the gill cover!

On the question of whether guesstimates are sufficient, I'd suggest that weighing an odd fish serves to calibrate the eye of even the most experienced fisherman, and helps keep others honest. Years ago, I remember a very experienced and quite well-known American fisherman telling me that when one of the big Canadian rivers (either the Restigouche or Cascapedia, I think) went C&R, the average recorded weight jumped by 2-3 pounds from one season to the next. You can draw your own conclusions as to why that might be, but for my part I don't believe that the salmon suddenly got bigger as a result of C&R! Similarly, there are instances in this country when claims can appear doubtful. Without naming any names, there is one Scottish river which has regrettably acquired a bit of a reputation for exaggeration. There's a beat on another river which always seems to record a surprising number of fish over 20lbs - a far higher proportion than anywhere else up- or downstream, so far as I'm aware. And of course there are certain individual fish that have had remarkable weights attributed to them, when photographs would suggest nothing of the kind. I'm sure that some people will recognise the instances I'm referring to! In all these cases, a proper record of fish weights would put an end to any doubt. And of course this cuts both ways; there's no doubt that photographs can at times be deceptive, so in some instances weighing the fish would actually serve to vindicate the captor's claim in the face of nay-sayers.

Discuss the wider question of fish handling, by all means. When it comes to salmon, you still see far too many pictures of fish lying on the bank, and sometimes even arranged in a number of different poses with rod, fly etc. All of that sort of thing tells me that the fish was almost certainly out of the water for too long, and there is still some way to go in educating people in best handling practice. I think that sometimes people who have come to game fishing from a coarse background don't fully appreciate that a trout or salmon requires very different treatment from a carp. But I really don't believe that the few seconds required to lift a fish out of the water - particularly in a weigh net, with no hand contact - are in themselves a problem, and to focus on this one aspect of the whole process of unhooking a fish and returning it to the water isn't particularly helpful when there is a wider discussion to be had.
 
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JoeOh

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I would be prepared to bet that the brown trout in your first picture was out of the water for considerably longer than any of the salmon I caught this season! It has clearly been lifted and carried some way from the water. Were the hands wetted before touching the fish,

Is that fish alive ? (eye)
 

JohnH

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What business is it of anyone else if someone wants to weigh a fish they have just caught FFS. I think we all need to get over ourselves.
Have to say WJ has nailed it here. There's plenty more important things for anglers to get their boxers in a bunch about than whether or not others choose to weigh or measure their best fish, as long as it's done quickly and the fish safely returned.
 

PaulF1

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Manchester UK
Coming from coarse angling, I have weighed loads of fish over my fishing lifetime.
I obsessed over carp for 20 years, and in the carp game, size is everything. (My ex wife said something along the same lines I think?)
At first I weighed, photographed and logged every capture! This soon wore off though, as a plethora of 12lbers soon got boring.
Into the late 80's and I would only weigh anything that I thought would go 20lb+ as despite tales to the contrary, this was still a big fish in the NW. Through the 90's and early 00's this changed to anything that I thought might be 25+, and I was obviously fishing waters with bigger fish, 30lb being the much hoped for and seldom achieved target.
When I switched back onto the rivers I had a spell of weighing quite a few barbel, and chub to a lesser extent, mainly until I got my eye in. These days I would only weigh a chub if I thought it might scrape 6lb (so very, very rarely) and a barbel that looked to be an easy 10.
I don't feel any guilt over this at all. I don't publicise my catches, and almost never take any pictures, but I do like to have an idea if I have caught a good 'un for my own satisfaction.
At the start of each season my estimating skills can be well out! A massive chub can turn out to be a high 4lber, and a good 10lb barbel can actually be a scraper 9, but I quickly get the measure of it again.
It is funny how wide of the mark anglers guesstimations can be when they catch a fish that is bigger than their usual stamp. Almost always way, way off. Always bigger. :D As a club bailiff, the amount of 12lb "20's" I've witnessed beggars belief!
My golden rules for weighing fish;
Rest the fish in the net in deep water. Peg the net down!
Thoroughly wet both the Unhooking mat and weigh sling.
Zero the scales with the wet sling.
Put the net/fish onto the mat and slide the fish into the sling. No touching necessary!
Weigh fish, return to water, holding fish gently by tail, using the sling as a "glove", until the fish recovers - no touchy touchy.
Done like that, the only damage is done with the hook.
Since taking up fly fishing I've never bothered even taking scales. I estimate my pb fly caught trout is 6oz. But I might be wrong.
 

Tangled

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What business is it of anyone else if someone wants to weigh a fish they have just caught FFS. I think we all need to get over ourselves.
He made it everybody's business by posting it on a public forum as a topic to be discussed.
So it's being discussed. Is that surprising?
 

ohanzee

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What business is it of anyone else if someone wants to weigh a fish they have just caught FFS. I think we all need to get over ourselves.

I don't think anyone has criticised anyone for weighing fish, I'm just curious why it's a thing.
 

eddleston123

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With the advent of weigh nets - weighing a fish shouldn't be a problem.

A quick lift, and back in the water.

Irrespective of the above views and opinions, most anglers do like to talk in weight terms when discussing a substantial sized fish.

If we were all just to estimate, then we would find that a 2lb grayling would turn into a 4lb fish.

Our sport is already renowned for 'exaggeration' - which I think is a bit of fun.

The record books would just be a joke if we were all to guesstimate!

Everyone to their own.



Douglas
 

LukeNZ

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So if you dont weigh them, measure them from tip to toe, and around the girth. Scale count below the adipose etc,; then how on earth is the tailor going to make them a shirt and trouser?

Toad of toad hall would be appalled!
 

Rhithrogena

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Never weighed fish, except occasionally already dead sea fish on wrecking trips.
When releasing them I confess to often noting the length against the rod or on the little tape measure I now carry...
Surprising how easy it is to exaggerate if you don't measure some now and then...
 

Tangled

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Literal rule of thumb - my hand span, thumb to middle finger is 8”
 

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