Henry Gilbey
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Henry Gilbey blog

How much does the weight and/or measurement of a fish mean to you ?

Photo courtesy Adrian Rogers

This outstanding bass was caught on New Year's Day 2012 by Adrian Rogers somewhere along the Dorset coastline - the successful lure was the MegaBass Zonk 120 in that pearl rainbow colour that so many anglers I know turn to in rough or coloured conditions. The fact that a fish like this can still be caught at a time of year when many anglers' lure gear is sitting in the corner is pretty epic. Hugely well done to the guys involved with the capture of this fish - Adrian and Mark both told me that it was some pretty hairy fishing conditions, but they went for it and they got some serious rewards. Adrian caught and released another bass around the 6lb mark as well. But as much as the bass above is an awesome fish, it raises a few questions that I thought might be worth exploring a bit.

You will note that I have not mentioned the weight of the fish, and that is for a good reason. This bass was not actually weighed, but it measured 76cms - now I am not entirely sure about bass lengths converting into approximate weights, but from the photo and the physical description of the fish that Adrian and Mark gave me, I have no doubt whatsoever that we are looking at a 10lb plus bass here. A bass of a lifetime. A double. The kind of bass that every bass angler hopes to catch. The guys were not carrying any weighing scales and I know that they were in a hurry to simply measure it, snap a few photos, and then release the fish as quickly as possible. Outstanding job. But although Adrian is obviously still buzzing about this fish (and quite rightly so), he did say to me that in a perfect world he would have loved to know the exact weight of that bass.........but why ? Why does the precise weight of a fish mean so much to us ? I am in the same boat as Adrian here by the way - like most of you reading this blog I am sure, we have grown up wanting to know the weight (and not the lengths) of our fish. If I had caught that fish then I can assure you I would have loved to know how much it weighed. But does it really matter that much if you have a measurement instead ?

I am not sure if you are aware that in some places the actual weight of a fish never really comes in to it. Look at the photo above that I shout out in the Seychelles late last year with the FlyCastaway lads - that huge GT is being measured, indeed out of the most likely hundreds and hundreds of GTs that I have seen caught in the Indian Ocean, not one of them has been weighed. The guides measure the fish on the flats and then the angler takes that as his "tally" if you like - GTs, bonefish, bumphead parrotfish etc., they all just get measured and released. The goal is to catch (and release) a 1 metre plus GT (fork length) on the flats - much like the goal in our bass fishing would be to catch a 10lb plus bass, albeit you can actually see a healthy supply of 1m plus GTs swimming around. The guys on those Seychelles flats come in from a day's fishing talking about catching fish of certain lengths - and not weights. It's just the way it's done. I see this in the US a lot as well - so and so lodge for example offers say fly fishing for wild brown trout over 20 inches etc., or the slot size for a snook is so and so length.

What do you reckon ? Can you see a time one day in the future where we might just measure and not even bother weighing our true sporting fish like the bass ? Or does it actually matter what way we do things ? What I am not doing here is arguing for or against the ways in which we might weigh the fish we catch. It just interests me to see how different anglers and/or guides around the world go about recording the fish they catch or guide clients on to. As much as a 10lb plus bass is the fish of a lifetime to many anglers, there are not the same size/physical/logistical problems associated with trying to weigh a really weighty fish like say a shark or a big GT out on the flats. How precise can a simple fork-length measurement be when you are wanting a rough weight ? For some species there are of course charts that relate to length, girth and then weight, but again it comes down how much the precise weight of a fish really means to you or me. It might not well mean that much until the fish of a lifetime comes along and you want to know precisely how much it weighs - or measures. And that's it. What means the most to you ? The weight or the measurement - or both ? Can the true measure of a fish only be the weight of it ? (if that makes sense). A cricketer measures their success in runs or wickets, a golfer measures it in their score against par, and I suppose us anglers measure a lot of our success via the weight of the fish we catch. Or the measurement. See what I mean ?