How To Register Your Record Fish by Thomas Pinckney
Have you ever wondered what to do if you caught a record fish? I’ve caught some nice fish, but I’ve never been lucky enough to catch one of possible record size. Would you weigh the fish in, or would you “CPR” (catch, photograph and release) it, then attempt for a release record? If you’re like a lot of people, you will not be prepared to properly register your fish if that day ever comes. I’ve often wondered what I’d do in the event that “fish of a lifetime” is caught by me. I checked with two organizations – The International Game Fish Association, and the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, to find out just exactly what to do. The following is a synopsis of what to do if you catch that “fish of a lifetime”.
1. If you have a possible record fish on your line, do not allow another person to touch your line or tackle during the fight. Only one person may fight the fish. Another person may net or gaff the fish.
2. Have your fish weighed once only, ASAP, on certified scales in the presence of two disinterested parties. These scales will have a certification seal bearing a certification number, the inspector’s name that last certified it, and the date the scale was checked. Write this information down, along with the names, addresses and phone numbers of the witnesses. These scales may be found in post offices, fisheries, medical facilities, sport shops, feed mills, grocery stores and resorts, etc. Some states (my home state-Maryland, is one of them) require that your fish be weighed at a DNR Citation Center.
3. Measure the girth and total length of the fish, and the distance from the front of the fish to the fork in the tail. Do not weigh your fish if you are going for a release record.
4. Have your fish identified ASAP by a professional fish person or taxonomist. If the fish is a suspected hybrid or potential all-tackle record, the person identifying the fish must be certified. Get that person’s name, address, and phone number.
5. Take quality photos (use fill flash on a bright day) of the fish, with, and without the fisherman who caught it. Color is preferred. If possible, also take photographs in black and white for publication purposes (reproduces better).
6. Do not open the fish. This may be required later to verify weight if suspicions arise.
7. Keep the fish in the refrigerator or freezer until its status is determined. A taxidermist can still mount a frozen fish.
8. For line class records, save the first 25 feet of line or more for laboratory tests. For fly fishing, save 25 inches or more of the tippet used, leaving the fly or hook attached. For rod with no reel and ice fishing records, no line sample is necessary because only the heaviest of species is recognized.
9. Contact your state DNR for an application to register your fish.
10. If you wish to have your fish mounted, contact your State DNR first. Some states will pay for record mounts, and make a copy for themselves for display purposes. Otherwise, I would contact a competent taxidermist to do the job right.