It seems like keepnet weight limits are more and more commonplace on the venues I fish these days. Whether you agree with them or not (and many venues are unnecessarily strict in my opinion) they are here to stay.
I know some very good, sensible anglers that have been penalised for breaking a fishery's keepnet limit. Darren Cox once went just one or two pounds over the limit at a famous venue and had his entire weight disallowed. White Acres has a strict 60lb limit in force now, too, and anything over that weight counts as 60lb. Lots of people have already been caught out in the recent Bait-Tech Festival down there. On last year's Fish 'O' Mania qualifiers I was very lucky at Viaduct Fishery when my 250lb catch was just within the limits - although I would have still won the match and they did have sensible tolerances.
I personally think this is the way things should be done. Yes, by all means have a limit but a 10lb tolerance, for instance, is great because surely no one can guess their weights that accurately? Nor should they have to as surely that's what the bloody scales are for!?
On some venues I will be fishing this year the keepnet limits basically mean I will have to take five (perhaps even six!) keepnets to a match. This is getting ridiculous in my eyes as pegging is tight enough as it is without having to somehow fit five or six keepnets around you. Surely if everyone places four keepnets in the water at the very start and tries to rotate their fish as evenly as possible then that will be fine?
Going back to that Viaduct match of mine I was asked to guess what weight I had and went on camera with a prediction of 130lb (don't laugh!). In my defence, I hadn't been 'proper' carp fishing for a few months and completely underestimated just how big they were. I assumed the biggest fish were doubles (not 20s!) and deep down thought I had between 160lb and 180lb. I had only had 18 fish too, so if they were all 10lb I was going to be there or thereabouts with my gut feelings. I was miles off!
A few weeks later I was at White Acres and put an extra keepnet in after a couple of hours as I was sure I had 100lb-plus… and then weighed in less than 80lb. It was still enough for the section win but I was so embarrassed to have overestimated!
Anyway, I am now so paranoid about it all that I've just got myself a fish counter gadget from Browning. I have no intentions of clicking every fish I catch as that would slow me down. Instead, I'm using it to click every pound I reckon I've caught. So far I've used it twice at Woodland View and tried to be generous with my clicking. I clicked 98 on Good Friday and actually weighed in 106lb for second overall (8lb out). The next day was much harder on the first 95-peg Maver Match This qualifier of the year. I generously clicked 38 times but actually weighed a section-winning 45lb (7lb out). So, even when I'm generously clicking I'm out and not appreciating just how big some of these fish are!
It's still quite fun trying to guess your weight while you fish and it's something I'm going to do a bit more this season. You never know, I might start telling the truth a bit more at the weigh in. Then again, half the fun is telling a few porkies and watching everyone's expression as you lift out a match-winning netful!
Jon Arthur is the group editor of Match Fishing and Pole Fishing magazines and notoriously bad at underestimating his weights!