How to weigh a fish accurately.
1 – On capture of a big fish and after removing the hook make sure that it’s resting within the water safely and out of harms way.
2 – Dampen down your unhooking mat and sling but ensure that the sling isn’t running in water by wringing out any excess water.
3 – Place the damp sling onto the scales and zero in carefully using the adjustment dial. Double check that the zeroing is spot on by removing the sling and placing it back on the scales.
4 -Leave one of the eyelets of the sling on the scales hook and position alongside the mat but well away from any excess water. Ideally a smaller unhooking mat can be used or the kneeling pad of some larger mats but don’t place the sling on the mat where any water is.
5 – Lift the fish onto the mat ensuring that no additional water hits the sling.
6 – Slide or place the fish into the sling and lift.
7 – Hold the scales at the top preferable using a weighing rod. Never hold dial scales by their sides as this gives an incorrect reading.
9 – If the fish is something very special then I will place the fish safely back into the water, but on doing so avoid placing the sling in the water.
10 - Finally, with the fish resting once again within the water, take a second to place the sling back on the scales. If its bang on zero then all well and good, if its not, and this is a major problem with digitals as often they will read -2/+2oz, then something went wrong in your weighing procedure.
11 – Return fish
Please note that the welfare of the fish is of up most importance throughout any procedure, be it playing, unhooking, weighing or photographing so attention to detail and being organised are both elements that need addressing closely. Always have a bucket of water next to you and never let a fish dry out. I always carry a Nash Fish-Care Kit with me and if the fish has any wounds then treat in accordance to the instructions. On returning a fish always ensure it cannot fall out of the item that its being transported in and even if it is secure keep it as close to the ground as possible and never turn your back or walk away from a fish when its on the mat.
The do's and don’ts when weighing.
1 – Don’t hold dial scales by placing your hands either side, it gives a false reading. Always hold the scales at the top using a weigh rod or better still a tripod.
2 – Don’t weigh a fish in a sling running in water or dry, make sure it’s damp.
3 – Try to weigh a fish out of the wind as pressure from a modest breeze on a damp sling will add weight to it.
4 – Always zero the scales to the sling before adding the fish. This is where many anglers slip up. In their excitement on catching a big fish they simply zero the scales, and then place the fish within a sling which obviously weighs something.
Example - If it’s a Gardner Sling Multi-Species sing then when damp it weighs 6oz. Add this to an 11oz dace and well you can see why often a 1lb 1oz dace looks somewhat suspect when claimed at a weight of 1lb 1oz! Carp sling weigh even more so once again a 29lb carp can easily be miss-weighed and recorded at 32lb plus!
5 – Never weigh a fish in a landing net, let alone a landing net with the handle attach. Yes some companies have manufactured landing nets with a ring so that fish can be weighed but it’s a bad practice and should not be encouraged. Some dial scales wont allow you to zero them to this, or in the case of digitals will reset when the net is removed giving a false reading when coming to weighing the fish. Weighing a fish like this is a bad practice and if used only used to give an angler a rough weight not an accurate weight.
6 – Weighing fish within a plastic bag, is it acceptable? Once again weighing a fish within a plastic bag is widely used but once again can give false readings as it’s impossible on most dial scales to zero the scales accurately as the plastic bag has very little weight. A damp sling is far more accurate, just like the 6oz Gardner Sling, as it has a weight when damp which can be zeroed in to the scales.
7 – If you are using Weighmaster dial scales then be very careful as zeroing these is a bit hit and miss, especially with a plastic bag.
Example – A friend of mine uses these and I recall him catching a big rudd a few years back. I asked if we could do an experiment using each others scales, which he agreed. He weighed the rudd using Weighmaster dial scales within a plastic bag at 2lb 11oz; I used Ruben Dial scales and a damp sling and recorded a weight of 2lb 5oz! By weighing the fish again on his scales he continuously recorded different weights.
8 – Once your sling is damp and it’s been zeroed into the scales don’t place it on a wet unhooking mat. I usually hover this above the mat then carefully place the fish within, all the time making sure that the sling doesn’t get any wetter. Easy to do if there are two anglers, or the fish is something like a three pound perch but any bigger and it’s difficult when you are on your own. If it’s a big fish then just try not to get the sling wet after zeroing in.
9 – If you’re weighing a fish which involves having to make a some sort of mathematical adjustment, well your leaving yourself open to recording an incorrect weight. The reason we all taught simple arithmetic at schools is so we know how to add and subtract. I failed my maths exam, why, because its not my strongest point so will always avoid having to make a calculation to get a weight.
10 – Only use scales that have been designed for angling. I know of instances where anglers use scales that weight only in kilo or show 8oz as.5. Once again the angler then has to convent this into pound and ounces which once again can lead to inaccurate weights.
If you are serious about recording your fish accurately then you need to buy yourself some proper scales. I gave up using Digital scales years ago, why because when electrics meet dampness they will eventually let you down. I used Fox Stalker Digital scales for years with no problems what so ever, even having them checked by weights and measures against two British Records and they were bang on both times.
Eventually though these packed up. I should have paid the price and bought a new set yet by then loads of other companies such as Ruben, Chub and Korum had flooded the market with far cheaper versions. I tried most but all for one reason or another failed to inspire me that the reading given was accurate. So I now and have for many years relied on Ruben Dial scales, bulky and heavy yes but also accurate.
I recall catching a rudd a few winters back which looked huge. Myself and angling companion Chris were both convinced it was close, if not a three pounder but my Ruben Dials recorded a weight of 2lb 6oz. Thinking that my scales were weighing light I asked Chris, who also uses Ruben Dial scales to weigh the fish on his and guess what, he recorded a weight of 2lb 6oz. It was just a massive framed fish that fooled both of us in the darkness and weighed far less than it looked.
If you weigh fish in a plastic bag then surely you only have to ask yourself the question why did the British Record Fish Committee find discrepancies in accepting a potential British Record perch recently.
I also recall seeing a big crucian last year reported to the press at a weight of 3lb 13oz 11drams. How did that angler get 11drams? For me as soon as I read such a weight, all I do is look at it, agree it’s a big fish but dismiss the weight as being accurate as in truth a fish can only be weighed accurately to within an ounce. If I also read about a fish that’s been weighed in a landing net I also look at this in the same way. Yes I have recorded fish within half-an-once, why because on weighing the needle is between two one ounce markers. To be honest most anglers including myself now forget about half-ounces and take the lower weight. The British Record Fish Committee now encourages this practice and showed this by lowering Martin Bowlers Crucian carp record from 4lb 9oz 9drams to 4lb 9oz.
All in all, if you weight a fish incorrectly then you are only cheating yourself!