Catch and Release Tournaments

Have you ever wondered how a fishing tournament could be held without using livewells, stringers, or harvesting your catch? Well, with recent catch-and-release regulations going into effect across the country and a more environmental mindset among outdoorsmen, a little planning and the use of digital cameras, such “C and R” tournaments are not only possible, they are easy to conduct and compete in. All tournament directors need are an “identifier” and an onsite computer for “weigh-ins”. All the angler needs is a digital camera and a measuring device.

For years kayak fishing tournaments have been at the forefront of the development of such Catch-Photo-Release (CPR) tournaments. For obvious reasons a unique format for documenting catches was necessary, since the typical kayak lacks a livewell. And to many peoples’ surprise, over the years there have been very few, if any, substantial problems or controversies which have arisen from these tournaments. And several annual kayak fishing tournaments successfully conduct CPR events with well over 100 entrants each year. Now with new fisheries regulations and growing angler interest this format may become much more utilized with tournaments outside of the kayak fishing community.

The main thing to remember with CPR tournaments is that they utilize fish length and not weight in tracking competitors’ entries. Basically, at a designated time prior to the event tournament coordinators distribute some form of photographic identifier to the entrants. This identifier may be an event sponsor’s sticker or printed logo, or any other convenient item which can be placed visibly in each competitor’s photographs. The idea is that no one knows the identifier prior to the event to ensure no previously caught fish can be photographed with the specified identifier. Some tournaments, such as the annual TKAA charity event in Virginia, actually distribute designated measuring devices to each competitor, to be used as both the ruler and identifier.

Once the tournament has begun each angler must take a photograph of each entered fish, while the fish is on a measuring device with the measurement visible. The identifier must also be clearly visible in each photograph. Tournament coordinators also often distribute paper and pencil forms, so that the anglers can keep track of their catches. At the end of the allotted tournament day event directors are notified of the day’s best catches, and memory cards from the competitors’ cameras are used to confirm the winning catches. This is why the identifier is so important, so that only the fish caught during the specific time period are counted.

CPR tournaments will have an increasing role in fishing tournaments over the coming years. It not only complies with typical catch and release regulations, but also causes less stress to the fish, as they would not need to be transported on a boat for the duration of the event or be released into different waters than where they were caught. Also, this photographic concept would offer opportunities for potential competitors who do not have livewell systems on their boats, or even if they happen to be shore anglers.

By: John Oast

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Kayaks Used