Fishermen are well-known for being some of the best story-tellers in the world. It seems each fish an angler describes to his friends is always bigger than the one in their previous story. However, there are occasions when an angler just might have reeled in a record breaking fish. Most fishermen are intelligent enough to honestly know whether or not their fish is a record catch, and if you think you’ve pulled one such lunker to the boat, there are a few steps you can take to verify the claim and possibly see your name in the record books.
The basic things you need to keep in mind when trying to see if a fish is a record breaker are time, proof, and paperwork. Of course, the specifics may differ depending on the state in which the fish is caught, the tackle used, and the species itself.
Fish do not last very long out of water, and taking too much time to find a scale after a potential record fish is caught can actually cause it to lose ounces, or even pounds, especially if left in the sun. The best thing to do is keep it cool by putting it on ice in a cooler, but don’t freeze it completely.
Try to locate a certified scale as soon as possible. Grocery stores, hardware stores, or even some better-equipped tackle retailers, possess certified scales and most are more than willing to assist you in weighing the fish. Make sure you have at least one or two witnesses when weighing the fish, as well. If weighed at a grocery store deli counter, I suggest asking the employee assisting you to print the label with the weight and also to sign the slip so that you have their name.
Photographs are perhaps just as important as the weight and having witnesses when registering a record fish. Photographic proof is the only way the IGFA (International Game Fish Association) judges can verify the validity of your fish. Take pictures from many angles, and also be sure to photograph the fish being weighed. The more picture you send in, the easier it will be for the IGFA to do their job and the quicker you’ll discover if your fish is a record breaker. The IGFA also requires you to send in at least 50 feet of the line used to catch the fish.
Once you’ve taken care of the photos, the weigh-in, and clipped at least 50 feet of line to send in, you’ll have to fill out an entry form. Contact the IGFA to receive an entry form and, once it’s filled out completely, return it, along with the other documents. Furthermore, the most important part of the entire process is one that many anglers might overlook; a fishing license. Make sure your license is current when the fish is caught, because an out-of-date license, or not having one at all, will negate the catch completely.
If you are a little unsure of tackling this process on your own, I suggest contacting your state’s DNR branch immediately after catching the fish. They can help point you in the right direction and ensure everything is done correctly. Like I said, we all have our fish tales, but there are instances when a potential record breaker is actually caught and in such a case, credit is deserved to the angler. By taking a few necessary steps, you can become a part of fishing history and forever possess a fish story that bests any your friends come up with.
For more information on the International Game Fish Assocation, including details on fishing records and related documents, visit www.igfa.org, or call 954-941-3474.