As anglers, we all like to tell tales about the fish we’ve caught – a good fish scale will enable you to back up your story with some hard evidence! While fish scales may not be the most important piece of fishing gear in your arsenal, they’re indispensable if you want to get an accurate weight measurement of your catch.
Besides giving you an accurate weight reading of your catch, fish scales are great for tournament anglers, or anyone who prefers not to guess at the weight of a fish.
Most fish scales are also lightweight and compact and will take up minimal space in your tackle box or pants pocket.
Quick Answer: 5 Best Fish Scales
Why do you need a fishing scale?
A fishing scale provides you with quick and accurate weight measurements while you’re on the water.
We’ve all seen those silly photos where an angler tries to enlarge the size of their catch by holding it with outstretched arms and using a close-up camera angle. Don’t be that guy!
Having a fish scale handy means you’ll know the exact weight of any trophy fish you catch. So the next time you’re retelling the story of how you caught that 20 lb. northern pike, you can easily silence any doubters.
If you’re fishing in an area with slot limits, most fish scales have an included measuring tape to ensure you’re abiding by local laws and regulations.
Fishing scales are also useful for other tasks besides weighing fish. Many anglers use them for setting the drag on their reels as well as weighing gear and luggage when traveling.
Top 5 Fishing Scales
What to look for in a fish scale?
Picking the right fish scale will depend on how you plan to use it. Fish scales come in a variety of weight capacities, display types and attachment methods. Generally, the most important factors when deciding on a scale are accuracy, ease of use and durability.
Let’s take a look at some of the key decision factors.
Digital vs. Mechanical
Both digital and mechanical scales have their place in an angler’s arsenal and will perform adequately when you need to weigh a fish.
Digital scales have come a long way since the early days when they were made of cheap rust-prone electronic components. Modern digital scales utilize tough, impact-resistant thermoplastics that can withstand being dropped on a boat’s deck. They also feature excellent waterproofing – with better models being able to withstand the saltwater environment.
Most digital scales are also highly accurate and able to calculate weights down to the ounce (or even gram). Generally, these scales are able to weigh smaller fish better than mechanical ones.
Many modern digital scales have some form of memory function built in – so you can save several weight measurements without having to stop fishing and write them down. Tournament anglers tend to favor them for this reason.
Because digital scales have large LCD or LED screens, they’re easier to read than most mechanical scales. This means there’s no guesswork involved – which can be particularly useful when a fish is thrashing around.
Mechanical scales are durable, completely waterproof, and never need their batteries replaced. Many anglers prefer the low-maintenance approach to fish scales and will opt for a mechanical scale.
If you fish in saltwater, then one of these scales may be preferable to the digital alternative.
Many mechanical scales are the lip gripper style – which enables you to lock the end of the clamp onto the fish’s lip – preventing it from wriggling or thrashing away. The locking mechanism works in the same manner as a pair of vice-grip pliers. If you’re dealing with particularly toothy or aggressive fish then this style will work better.
The downsides of mechanical scales are: they can’t store weight recordings in memory, they’re not as easy to read as a large backlit digital display, and small fish may be difficult to measure accurately.
There are two main attachment mechanisms found in most fish scale models – locking fish grippers and hooks.
Hooks are found in many digital scale models and some mechanical ones. They’re designed to be hooked through either the gill plate or the lip.
If you hook a fish through the gill plate be aware that it can wriggle its way off your hook if you’re not careful. Hooking to the lip is better suited to already dead fish, as fish can easily wriggle free otherwise.
An advantage of this attachment mechanism is that you can attach netting or a container to the hook, and then use your scale’s tare function to create an easy-to-use hanging scale.
Fish grippers have a built-in locking mechanism that clamps onto the fish’s lip. This prevents your catch from getting away or injuring itself by thrashing around.
If you’re more of a catch and release angler, then this style is the way to go.
Also, consider the fish species you typically fish for. Aggressive, toothy fish like snakehead, muskie and even walleye can cut up your fingers when you try to hook them to a scale, so a fish gripper style scale would work best.
Fishing scales come in a variety of weight capacities. There’s no real advantage of going with a low weight capacity scale as the price is similar regardless of the weight capacity. Even if you mostly catch smallmouth bass, you never know when you’ll need to weigh that monster pike you hooked!
Whenever you’re using sensitive gear around water you’ll want it to be thoroughly waterproof. Cheaper scales tend to have less effective waterproofing than more expensive models – you get what you pay for.
Keep in mind that even some of the water-resistant scales may crap out if they get submerged in saltwater. If you’re a bit careless with your gear like I am, then go for a mechanical scale – or one with good waterproofing and make sure it floats!
Maintaining Your Fish Scale
Maintaining your fish scale is fairly straightforward. Following these simple steps will ensure you get the most utility out of your scale:
- Thoroughly dry your scale every time it gets wet – make sure to store it in a secure dry place.
- Check the batteries are fresh before heading out.
- If you won’t be using the scale for a while, take the batteries out. Otherwise, corrosion can occur on the terminals.
- Calibrate your scale with weights from time to time – if you’re interested, you can also get your scale professionally certified by the IGFA for about 40$.
Q: How do you weigh a fish without a scale?
A: Getting an exact weight measurement without a scale is not possible – but there are several ways to get a pretty good estimation.
Q: How to use a fish scale?
A: Using a fish scale is pretty straightforward. For an electronic scale:
- Hold down the power button for at least 3 seconds until the scales zero themselves.
- Select lbs. or kg. as a unit of measurement.
- Hook the weigh hook under the gill plate of the fish. You can also hang the hook from the lure if it’s still attached to the fish’s lip.
- Lift the fish completely of the ground so it’s completely suspended in the air and wait for the digital display to show the weight measurement.
Q: How accurate are fish scales?
A: Depending on the model, fish scales are accurate down to the nearest ounce (some models are accurate down to the nearest 5-gram increment).
Featured image courtesy of Florida Fish and Wildlife. Source
I’ve loved being in the outdoors for as long as I can remember. I grew up fishing, canoeing, and camping throughout the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. It’s what lead me to start this site and share my passions for fishing, diving, kayaking and more. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or (preferably!) preparing for my next outdoor adventure.