Fly Life Magazine

A new trend in tournament fishing, no weigh-in

Tournaments are starting to skip weigh-in. Nobody seems to mind. Safe sex is just as much fun

By Skip Clement 

Over the course of the dozen or so years that we’ve been publishing this magazine. Occasionally, our editor gets asked: “Why don’t you cover fishing tournaments?” Well, he usually replies, we did, sometimes, but those we covered were always fly fishing and catch and release.

As it turns out, our publisher pointed out, post-tournament box scores aren’t what most readers are interested in, or so says analytics. But frankly, it was the harm done to the animals in many tournaments that was the turn-off. For example, lip grips, bad live-wells, Rube Goldberg weighing stations, and unnecessary time without oxygen both at the catch point and return time to the water.

Taking a fish out of the water for a photo op is at best tricky. Then, add lip grippers for a weigh-in, slap it down on the gunnel for measurement of length and girth – stresses even the hardiest largemouth bass. But surely overstresses trouts and salmons, as well as southern waters fish, like bonefish… in many instances beyond their capacity to survive.

Knowing and accepting that a certain percentage of tournament weigh-in fish were always going to die gnawed at too many sports fishers sense of conservation

Well, there is a trend to measure the length of each fish caught, add up the days’ tournament catch-length and that’s the score – total lengths combined.

A growing number of tournaments have turned to the catch, measure, photograph and release format — also called catch, record, release.

When Troy Skorich of Hermantown, Minnesota, and Tim MacDougall of Duluth, Minnesota won the 2018 Berg Construction Walleye Cup on the St. Louis River, they pulled up to the dock with no fish to weigh.

None of the 60 tournament boats kept any fish to weigh

Instead, the winners of the tournament were determined not by weight of the fish measured at the dock, but in length, as measured by each two-person team in their boat. The team with most total inches of fish — up to eight fish could be entered — were the winners.

In another event, run by the Twin Ports Walleye Association has been catch-photograph-release for the past nine years. The group’s president, Dave Nelson added: “It’s just the way to go for walleye tournaments as far as protecting the fish.”

“We started catch, record, release in 2008 when nobody else was doing it. Now it’s the standard for walleye tournaments that want to practice conservation,” said Denny Fox, AIM director. 

A nearly 21-inch walleye caught by John Langlee of Duluth is measured and photographed as part of last weekend’s Berg Construction Walleye Cup on the St. Louis River. The tournament winners are determined by total length of fish caught, not weight, and all fish are immediately returned to the river after being photographed. Photo courtesy Twin Ports Walleye Association

What about the “Golly Gee Wiz” audience factor?

Instead of pulling fish out of a bucket at a weigh-in a big screen shows the “biggest” winning fish taken from the almighty cell phone.

We still get that anticipation, the excitement,” Nelson said, “but not at the expense of the fish.” –  Duluth News Tribune

Sources: Twin Ports Walleye Association, The Walleye Foundation, John Myers 

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