It's not a record fish until a certified scale says so.
By Larry Hodge
The bend in your rod makes it clear you've hooked a big fish. Once you've landed it, your handheld scale confirms what you suspect: It's a potential new state record. After the obligatory high-fives and photos, you release the fish to be caught again another day.
As the fish disappears into the depths, you get a sinking feeling. Only you and your fishing partner know what the scale read - and it's never been certified as accurate. Did you just blow your chance at getting your name in the record book?
Until recently, the answer would have been "Yes." But not anymore. New TPWD rules give anglers 30 days to have their handheld scale tested and certified. (An application for a state record - available at www.tpwd.state.tx.us/publications/ pwdpubs/media/ pwd_br_t3200_349b.pdf - must be filed within 60 days of the catch date.)
And therein lies the rub: Where do you go to have your scale certified?
Previously, the Texas Department of Agriculture provided this service. However, this is no longer the case. Anglers now have two choices: the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) or a commercial scale-calibration company.
IGFA members may send their scale (up to 100-pound capacity) to IGFA and have it tested and certified annually for a $20 fee. The process takes about two weeks, including shipping time. For details, go to: www.igfa.org/ScaleCertification Info.pdf.
Non-IGFA members must have their scale certified by a commercial scale-calibration company. There are about 400 such companies in Texas. To find one near you, look up "scale repair" in the phone book or search an online business directory such as www.switchboard.com.