Scales for Weighing Fish

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Having caught a large bag of fish, or one substantial specimen, the successful angler will want to weigh his catch. There are many types of scales that can be purchased, some of them bulky, some pocket-sized.

There are four kinds of scales: the clock or dial type, the pan design, the beam design and spring balance. The clock or dial type is the most popular for competition use and can also be purchased in handsets. The pan type is usually preferred by sea anglers as they do not usually have to worry about weighing-in live fish.

The beam type are the most accurate and will weigh to a single dram. Because of their weight and problems of carrying, they are less popular with clubs. Beam scales can be transported along the bank during matches and are ideal for weighing small specimens accurately, but two scalesmen are needed. The pocket spring balance is carried by many individual anglers.

When weighing live fish, great care should be take to cause as little harm to the fish as possible. Most clock or dial scales now have a plastic-covered wire basket with a loose-fitting lid in which to place the fish. Before even beginning to fish, the scales should be set up on their tripod and adjusted by using the small screw on the clock. The scalesman should check that all is completely ready before asking the angler to take the fish from the water for weighing.

Keepnet considerations

When fish are lifted in a keepnet, they should never be tipped down the net into the basket of the scales. Sliding over the mesh will remove their protective slime and possibly their scales. While the keepnet is still in the water the fish can be fed down to the top ring by lifting the bottom of the net from the water; all the fish will then be trapped in the top of the net which can then be lifted from the water and the fish gently turned into the basket. After weighing, the basket containing the fish can be placed in the water so that the fish are free to swim away when they have recovered. Any specimen fish can be retained for separate weighing.

Scales for specimen hunters The handset clock scales or spring balances are those preferred by the specimen hunter and other in- dividual anglers. Many of these handsets now have a polymesh net supplied with them for weighing the fish and these nets should be wet when used, as a dry net will harm the fish.

When weighing live fish it is also advisable, where possible, to set the scales up over grass. Fish do jump out of scales, and grass is better than gravel. When returning the fish in a place where the bank is too high to place the basket into the water, the fish should be tipped into the folded keepnet and the net then lowered into the water and the fish allowed to escape.

At a match event, as the scales-man moves along between anglers, he should reset the scales before recording each weight. In matches where more than one set of scales are used, all the scales should be checked for accuracy before the match by one of the organizers. This is important, as, in any disputes, the match organizer must be able to certify that all the scales were reading the same.

In addition to such precautions, it is important that all scales should be returned to the makers once a year for their accuracy to be checked. Reputable manufacturers will ask purchasers to return their scales at least once every 12 months. It is also most important that scales used to weigh specimen fish, or possible record contenders, should be accurate and reliable.

Should a dispute arise or a protest be lodged during a match, it is the scalesman’s job to reweigh catches and to advise all the anglers immediately that there has been an objection. You cannot weigh catches after they have been returned!

Record Committee’s rules

Should a possible record fish be captured it is most important that the angler should follow the rules laid down by the British Record (rod-caught) Fish Committee. When record claims are made, the Committee’s rules state that scales or steelyards must be used which can be tested on behalf of the Committee. The Committee also states that scales should be regularly tested by the Weights and Measures Department. Certificates from the Department must also be produced with record claims which certify to the ac-curacy of the scales used to weigh the fish. Claims for small species of which the weights are always below 1lb must be submitted in grammes. Before rewarding any record claim with recognition, the Committee checks not only on the accuracy of the weighing but also on the technique used for the catch and on the identification of the fish species.

Zander tackle

If you are interested in getting the best possible fight out of a hooked zander, you need to scale down your usual pike tackle to a level which gives the fish an even chance.

Zander have only become wide-spread within the last decade in the Fenland drains and associated rivers. It is not surprising therefore that no specialized zander tackle has evolved and tackle borrowed from other types of coarse fishing has been used. Pike tackle has caught many fine zander; but it is more pleasurable and sporting to fish with something more sensitive.

While an excellent table fish, and often capable of fast, exciting runs when first hooked, the zander is not renowned for its fighting qualities. Indeed, the performance put up by the majority of the species can only be described as dour. Relatively light tackle is required to extract the maximum enjoyment from an en-counter with the fish.

Ideal zander rod

The ideal rod for zander is one similar to that used by tench and barbel anglers – one or a pair of Avon rods with modern fixed-spool reels is ideal. Alternatively, a light carp rod or pike rod is also suitable – provided it is over 10ft.

Line strength depends very much on the water. On snag-free waters where few big pike are caught, 7 lb or 8 lb b.s. Is ideal. Otherwise, 10 lb b.s. Is advisable.

Few waters are without pike, so a wire trace is normally essential. Pike soon bite through heavy nylon even if zander do not. Single-strand 8 lb Alasticum is strong and also very fine; other forms of braided wire are satisfactory but a little thick.

Fine wire is the best material for zander hooks. Flattening the barbs with pliers helps hook removal con-siderably without any more fish than usual being lost. Large single hooks, say No 10, or small trebles, up to No 8, may be used. Trebles must be sharp and round-bended. When the fish are biting finickally, two No 10 hooks along the flank of a small bait may catch shy fish.

The simplest way to fish for zander is to freeline a bait on a large single hook. The advantages of this method are that the bait stays on the hook during casting, and is pushed up the line when the zander is hooked, so that it can sometimes be used again. Its disadvantage is that the strike has to be delayed to allow the zander to take the bait well into its mouth.

On the majority of occasions, the barbless hook is relatively easy to extract with a pair of forceps, caus-ing minimal discomfort to the fish. Occasionally, a deeply hooked fish is better despatched before it is un-hooked and taken home for the table.

At long range, freeline tackle is inadequate, and a running ledger has to be used. The best set up consists of a large bomb tied to a long tail, which is fixed to a swivel running freely along the reel line. This method works admirably with small baits, because casts of 70 yards become possible.

Fishing a live- or deadbait off the bottom generally requires the use of a float and, in most cases, a pater-noster to present the fish in a natural position. Both the float and lead should be as small as possible. Tie the paternoster tail halfway along the trace with a sliding or ‘Billy Lane’ knot and tie a stop knot below this to prevent the pater- noster running down to the trace.

On smaller waters, it is occasionally possible to dispense with a paternoster and to fish with just a float. To keep the bait down near the bottom with this rig, a couple of swan shot may be pinched on lightly just above the wire trace.

This, however, is not always to the angler’s advantage unless he is fishing in particularly deep water. Often the sight of a slowly sinking deadbait causes the zander to move up in the water and intercept. They may even swirl on the surface at a bait which has landed literally a few seconds previously.

A leadless line is also a distinct ad-vantage when livebaiting, allowing the fish to move around much more freely and therefore cover a greater expanse of water.

The best baits

Baits for zander are invariably small fish or portions of fish, especially those with a narrow cross section, which are easier for the zander to swallow. Dace, chub, or roach of up to 3oz make ideal livebait when float fishing. As with gudgeon, bleak and rudd they can be ledgered or freelin-ed, live or dead. Frozen baits as well as fresh ones also take zander, but the former tend to be rather soft. Whether the bait is freshly killed or frozen, it should not be stale; old baits are invariably less effective.

One of the most useful baits is a piece of eel. A small ‘bootlace’, the sort that most anglers throw up the bank in disgust, can be cut into 2in sections and threaded with a baiting needle on to a single hook. This bait often takes good fish; moreover, you invariable get the bait back and it is impossible to cast it off. These factors are a great boon when the zander are feeding well and bait is running short.

Artificial lures will also take zander. Successful patterns include Mepps spinners, a variety of spoons and deep running plugs, all fished deep and very slowly and with the original large hooks replaced by smaller ones, sharpened with a hone. Wobbled deadbait is another successful zander method. A light bait such as a dead bleak is easy to work along the bottom.

Dead fish mounted on spinning vanes have accounted for many quality zander, and one popular method is to lip hook an extremely small fish with the treble hook of a small bar spinner. When retrieved, the flash of the silver or gold spinner is the initial attractor while the fish following a couple of inches behind is the bait that is attacked. An instant strike will usually result in a firmly hooked zander.

When to strike depends on the bait, hooks and methods of indication. When float fishing with small baits and a pair of small treble hooks, it pays to hit the zander hard a few seconds after the line has started to run out. When ledgering or freelining small baits on a similar rig, however, indication of a run should be as sensitive as possible so that the strike can be made im-mediately. Popular indicators include tucking the line lightly under an elastic band round the rod handle, with a square of kitchen foil folded over the line near the rod tip; an empty line spool round the line; or a simple tubular indicator. Whatever method is used, the bale arm must be open to let fish take line freely.

Forceps for unhooking

A final item of zander tackle is a pair of forceps for unhooking. Lift the fish up under its chin and open its mouth with your other hand. Then, using the forceps, pull the bait (if still there) out of its mouth and free the hooks. If they are deep work via the gill covers and invert the hooks before pulling them out.

Wrasse are beautiful fish. In the British Isles they are found in most coastal areas, where rock, weeds, molluscs and a few fathoms of sheltered inshore water provide a suitable habitat.