Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13 2014 - Cesspool and On the Merits of Using Length to Assess Fish Size

Went down to the cesspool after work.  Cast a small red popper to tiny blugills, making my way around the pond.  Another guy showed up, and started casting an inline spinner from the opposite bank, and caught a little bass, maybe 6 inches.  I made my way to the head of the pool, and caught a small bluegill, about 4 inches long.  Lost my popper in a tree and gave up for the evening.

As I walked around the far side, I struck up a conversation with the gentleman, whose name, so he claimed, was Steve.  Steve gave me a hot tip on a good spot to fish, and showed me some pictures of huge bass that he caught at this good spot.

Anyway, Steve was fishing with a 4" "creature" rubber thing, most closely mimicking a crawdad.  He told me that the cesspool is loaded with crappie, which seems unlikely, and that he'd caught a 4 pound largemouth out of there, which seems entirely possible.

I didn't doubt him about the fish, reader, because I'd caught a  good size fish out of there.  However, in my tackle box I don't carry a scale, just because length is a sufficient enough metric for me to assess my performance and my compliance with the law.  Consequently, I have no idea how big a four-pounder actually is.

So I asked Steve "How long was the fish?" to bring it into my sphere of fish-size awareness.  After not inconsiderable consideration, Steve estimated the fish was 12 inches long, but was a spawning female that was really fat.

Reader, allow me to refer you to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website, where they have a table of lengths that you can use to estimate the weight of a largemouth bass.   This I assume refers specifically to Texas largemouths, which are probably bigger on average than bass around these parts.  According to their table, a 12.5" largemouth, on average, weighs exactly 1 pound, a quarter of what Steve thought his fish weighed.

Now, you might think I'm exposing Steve to all the internet as a charlatan, a scoundrel, a liar, even.  He may well be all of those things and more, but in this case it's just as likely that he has an underdeveloped sense of how much things weigh.

Most people can estimate the length of an object the size of a fish fairly closely (within 10%).  This is in part because the human eye is calibrated through everyday use to know the length of an object.  When you wake up, and stare numbly at your feet, you might think, my big toe is 1.5" long.  You might think, as you fill your mug with juice at breakfast, there's 4 inches of liquid in the glass.

Consequently, it's easy to estimate the length of a fish. Now, the weight of the fish!  That's a different story.  Who wakes up in the morning and hefts a 2 lb bag of rice to calibrate their arm, an imprecise organ at best?  Nobody, that's who.

If you are going to measure fish, and you don't have a scale available, use length. 

And even though the eye will get you close, don't rely on it.  Measure a reference on your body, my father uses the spawn of his pointer finger to his thumb, or mark out lengths on your rod, or on your paddle.  Or carry around a tape measure.

If you don't, I'll imply on the internet that you are a charlatan, which probably stings something fierce.  

This is the first in my interminable series of educational posts.

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