How Big Was That Fish?

I saw the definition of “fish” on Facebook last week. It was “Fish (n) A cold blooded aquatic animal that shows its greatest growth rate between the time it is caught and the first time the fisherman describes his catch.”

There is a lot of truth to that definition!

Bass fishermen are terrible about estimating the weight of their catch, most of the time. I will never forget a tournament a few years ago at Oconee. I had five in the live well at about noon and I was real happy since I guessed they averaged about two pounds each.

A fellow club member stopped to talk and said he had a limit of three pounders. That made me think my catch was not so great. But at weigh in my five weighed 10.4 pounds and his five “three pounders” weighed 9.1 pounds.

The bigger the fish gets the faster the difference between its real and guessed weight seems to grow. It is not unusual at a tournament for a fisherman to come in and say he has broken our big fish pot, only to find out the fish weighs less than five pounds when taken out of the live well.

It would seem the pros could estimate the weight of their fish more accurately, but I am not sure. During the Bassmasters Classic the observers have phones and text in the weight of each bass the pro they are with lands during the day. A score card is kept on the BASS internet site that tracks their catches during the day. Many of the days during the last Classic it was no where near accurate.

Supposedly the pro tells the observer how much his fish weighs and that is what is sent in. So it may be some of the pros intentionally try to play mind games by over or underestimating the weight of their fish. And it is possible the people running the tournament fudge the numbers to keep it more interesting.

Just like in a blowout in football, like this year’s Super Bowl, if it isn’t close it is less interesting. So to make people want to watch the live weigh-in at the Classic, they may try to keep it looking close to keep up interest.

I have been very guilty of overestimating my bass’s weight at times. On a trip to West Point the last day of February a few years aqo I hooked the biggest bass I had hooked in a long time. When I got it in the boat I was sure it would weigh at least ten pounds, but when put on my digital scales it showed 7.6 pounds. A nice fish but no ten pounder. Those digital scales can really deflate a fish – and your ego.

Smaller fish can fool you, too. I don’t know how many times in tournaments I have had a limit of bass, especially spots, and think they will average a pound and a half each, or around 7.5 pounds for the limit, only to find they weigh six pounds or less on the scales. Spots often weigh less than largemouth the same length since they tend to be thinner.

In a Sinclair January tournament way back in the 1970s we had really tough fishing. Only four keepers were brought to the scales. My fish was the last to be weighted and I just knew I had won and got big fish since the first three weighed 12, 13 and 14 ounces. My fish looked bigger. It weighed 11 ounces. I think it is the lightest fish ever weighed in during a tournament!

Crappie fishermen are just as bad or worse then bass fishermen. I have been told many times a fisherman had a bunch of two pound crappie, but then their biggest fish of the bunch weighs less than a pound. A two pound crappie is a really big crappie.

Bream are the same way. A one pound bluegill is a really nice size fish but I have been told a lot of times fish weighing less than a pound weighed over two pounds in the telling. My biggest bluegill ever weighed one pound, twelve ounces, on digital scales, and it was huge.

Catfish grow huge, with some blue and flathead cats weighing over 100 pounds. But those fish are rare. Usually the tale I hear is that they caught a catfish so big when held up at shoulder height its tail dragged the ground. Such cats are caught, but if it was really that big it would be really hard to hold it at shoulder height.

When a fisherman tells you about his big catch, remember to allow for the growth from the time it was caught until when he tells you about it.

Someday I hope to catch a fish so big I don’t even have to exaggerate about its size.