Anglers tend to be opinionated people by nature. However, bring up the subject of IGFA records, and you’ll find that their opinions have opinions. Let me explain.
IGFA originally started keeping records in 1939 for large, saltwater species — like tuna and billfish — caught on conventional tackle. In subsequent years, IGFA became more inclusive by not only adding different saltwater species, but also freshwater and fly-rod categories. Well, when you add more options for acknowledging angling achievement, you automatically increase the number of opinions as to what really is a record-worthy catch.
It goes something like this: IGFA approves a record for a big species of fish caught on very light tackle. A heavy-tackle, big-game angler sees this (probably in Sport Fishing magazine), sends and email to me or goes on a forum stating that the recent record by said light-tackle angler is BS because light-tackle fishing for big pelagic fish is nothing more than trickery where the angler truly never fights the fish, and the boat, captain and crew are more responsible than the angler for any fish that’s landed. This causes light-tackle angler to rebut, stating that you can train a chimp to winch in a fish on 130-pound “cable,” as long as you keep it hydrated and feed it bananas. Meanwhile, a saltwater fly-angler that’s been lurking on the forum thinks to himself that both of these guys are stupid because any googan can catch a fish trolling or with bait, and that the only real records are those where an angler has to make a 70-plus-foot cast to a fish with fly rod!
The two or three people that read this blog may think this far-fetched but you’d be surprised how often I get comments like this and how much time I spend responding to them. My point is always the same: IGFA is the record keeping organization for all anglers whether you fish light tackle or heavy, freshwater or salt. If you follow IGFA angling rules and your catch is big enough, you get a record, plain and simple. If it’s incredibly small for the species or the line class, rest assured it won’t stand for long.
The people that wrote IGFA’s angling rules were pretty darn smart. Smart enough to anticipate controversies such as these when keeping records for fishing was in its infancy. As such, in the preamble to IGFA’s International Angling Rules you will find the following:
There are some aspects of angling that cannot be controlled through rule making. Angling regulations cannot ensure an outstanding performance from each fish, and world records cannot indicate the amount of difficulty in catching the fish. Captures in which the fish has not fought or has not had a chance to fight do not reflect credit on the fisherman and only the angler can properly evaluate the degree of achievement in establishing the record.
Remember, folks, one of the best things about fishing is its inherent diversity. You can go big or small, salt or fresh, conventional or fly but in the end you’re just playing with a critter that has fins and breaths underwater. Is it OK to be passionately loyal to one particular species and/or discipline? Absolutely! What’s wrong is to look down on others who are not fishing the way you do and to think of their catches and enjoyment of the sport as less than your own. It’s just fishing…