How To Take Good Fish Scoring Pictures

Taking good fish scoring pictures is one of the most challenging facets of catch-photo-release fishing. Since the picture is all the judges have to assess your catch, it is vital that you take good pictures. Good fish scoring pictures make judging easy. Our judges have years of experience catching, photographing, and judging fish in numerous catch-photo-release events and we also have a marine fisheries biologist on staff. They know how to account for poor pictures, uneven surfaces, fish in unnatural or extended positions, open mouths, pinched tails, and apply the same consistent criteria to all fish judged. Image analysis tools are also used to verify lengths, measuring devices, and image integrity. What constitutes a good fish scoring picture?

  • Use an approved measuring device.
  • Use a quality digital camera.
  • The entire fish must be clearly visible from head to tail.
  • The fish's mouth should be closed.
  • The fish should not be stretched, bent, or manipulated in any way to enhance the fish length. The fish should be in a natural lay position. Depending on the species the measurement is to the tip of pinched tail or fork.
  • The picture should be taken from above the fish center.
  • The fish and measuring device should be on a flat surface. Having a measuring jig to assist makes taking good pictures much easier.
  • The scoring marks on the fish measuring device must be clear and visible in the picture.
  • The unique token should be clearly visible in the picture.
  • The digital pictures must be shot at high resolution to enable judges to zoom in for detailed analysis.
  • The pictures may not be digitally modified or manipulated (this includes editing, cropping, and resizing).

Approved Fish Measuring Devices

All fish measurements must use a measuring device approved by Approved devices include:

  • 321Fish.Com measuring sticker or stick from a tournament (pictured to the right).
  • JaxKayakFishing.Com measuring sticker or stick from Jacksonville Kayak Fishing Classic.
  • Florida Sportsman/Shallow Water Angler law sticker
  • Florida Pro Guide sticker
  • Heywood's Big Fish Outfitters sticker and board
  • Check-It-Stik
  • Gator Grip Golden Rule
  • Rapala 60" Magnum Folding Ruler
  • Hawg Trough Measuring Board
  • Most off-the-shelf aluminum measuring devices may request a digital image of the measuring device and reserves the right to verify measuring devices. If you would like to use a measuring device not on this list you may request review the device for addition to the list prior to using the device in a 321Fish.Com event.

Fish Measuring Jigs

It is also a good idea to mount your measuring device on a measuring jig to enable a good measurement of the fish. A measuring jig enables the angler to secure the fish in a good position for taking a scoring fish picture with the measuring device. This can be especially handy when measuring fish in a kayak or canoe versus in the cockpit of a boat. Something important to keep in mind if you choose to build a measuring jig is the measuring device must remain true and enable our judges to see that it is indeed true. If you use a sticker product and put it on a hinged jig it is important to apply the measuring sticker after the construction of the jig so the hinges do not alter the scale of the measuring device. While there are many options for making a measuring jig some of the most popular include:

  • Wood board
  • Flat PVC material such as Sentra or facia material
  • Plastic gutter or super gutter material
  • Plexiglass

Below are some examples of fish measuring devices and fish scoring pictures. If you see one of yours it is not an indictment of your photo skills -- fish do not always pose and conditions can be challenging. Use these examples to learn what to strive for and what to avoid.

This picture shows several of the different measuring sticks and a measuring jig. From top to bottom we see the 321FIsh.Com Measuring Sticker, the measuring stick (silk screen of the sticker on vertical blind used in a sponsored tournament), the Flordia Sportsman law sticker, the Florida Pro Guide sticker, and a hinged measuring jig made of Sentra (flat PVC) with large rubber bands used to restrain the fish.

This speckled seatrout picture is a good scoring picture. The fish is on a flat surface, the measuring marks are in clear view, the picture is well-centered, and the unique token is easily visible. The mouth is closed, the nose is at the zero mark, the fish is straight and the tail is not manipulated.

A good scoring picture of a flounder.

Redfish are treated specially due to the issues surrounding their measurements with regard to the tail structure. In Florida the law measures fish with a pinched tail -- however pinch measurements can be quite variable due to the fork tail of a redfish, the amount of pinch, and the introduction of bending to make the fish as long as possible. Therefore OFT's rules are for a redfish to be in a "natural lay" position (no bending of body to extend length measurement) with pinched tail for measurement. If you fail to pinch the tail the judges will not estimate how long the fish could have been -- you will receive credit for what a picture shows rather than what it 'could' have shown. Read the tournament rules carefully to understand the specific rules for redfish.

This is a pretty good scoring picture of a redfish.

This is a redfish in a "natural lay" position. Notice the fish is not bent in any way, the tail is fully spread, and both the top and bottom of the tail are symmetrical with respect to the centerline of the fish. The token is in clear view, the shot is well-centered, and the fish is on a flat surface. It is clear from the measuring sticker that the nose is actually slightly beyond the 0 mark. In a picture like this the judges do not have to apply any subjective analysis due to an incorrect fish position or layout. This fish could likely measure a bit longer than the picture shows if the tail were pinched.

In this picture of a trout the mouth is open and it is obvious that with closed mouth the trout would be well short of the zero mark, somewhere in the range of 1/2". Also the tail is slightly pinched although for a trout this does not impact measurement as much as a species such as redfish.

This is another trout picture where the mouth is open and short of the zero mark.

The problem with this trout picture is the angle of the photo. It is virtually impossible to tell where the fish's nose is relative to the zero mark on the measuring device.

There are several problems with this redfish picture. First, the angle makes it difficult to judge where the nose is on the measuring stick. Second the measuring stick is a folding stick that is not on the approved measuring device list. Finally the measuring device is bent making the measurement look longer than it really is.

This redfish picture has a bent ruler and an uneven surface.

This redfish has a slightly bent tail section - notice how although the tail is full spread that it is bent upwards making the lower portion of the tail longer than the top. Also the measuring tape is wrinkled and not on a flat surface. If the tape were taut and on a flat surface the fish would measure shorter than this picture indicates.