Q I have a question about catching record, either world or tournament, fish. If the official who verifies my catch is delayed, will the fish lose weight? If so, how can I best maintain the fish's weight until it is checked?
First off, as long as you weigh your catch on a certified scale and get signatures from appropriate witnesses, you need not wait for an IGFA representative to weigh your world-record catch. However, for a number of years in the 1960s and early '70s I was manager of the MET tournament, which encompassed most of south Florida and the Keys. During that time I weighed a lot of fish. A frequent angler complaint was that the fish had lost ounces - or even pounds - between the time the fish was caught and when it was officially weighed.
I decided to check on this. On a trip to the Dry Tortugas with Capt. Gainey Maxwell in the mid-1960s using heavy tackle, I caught an amberjack that I weighed on my scale. It was either 101 or 102 pounds. (My 75-year-old memory is not what it used to be.) I placed the fish box on the stern of the boat - in the shade, but with no ice. I weighed it at the Key West dock 24 hours later on the same scale - and it had lost either 1 or 2 pounds. Considering the length of time and minimal effort to preserve the fish, the minimal loss made me think that fishermen were off base when they complained about weight loss.
A few weeks later I was at Don's Bait & Tackle in Homestead to check on a tarpon that was a leader in the tournament. It hung in the walk-in cooler. As I recall, the fish weighed in the 70-pound range. I asked them to let it hang for a few days. When I checked it later that week, it had lost a good bit of its weight.
Then I really began to check, and this is what I found. If the fish has small, tight scales, little water is lost. But, if the scales are large, such as on tarpon, the scales begin to lift, and body fluids evaporate as the fish's skin begins to dry, resulting in a considerable weight loss.
To answer your second question, simply keep the fish cool, wet and in the shade until it can be weighed.