It is a weigh of life

A marlin being delivered to the weighstation with area full of spectators.

For some people, fishing is a hobby and something to look forward to on weekends  or during  the holidays.

For some, however, fishing is their life. Weighmasters are fishing enthusiasts that dedicate their time to assisting the community by weighing and recording catches for tournaments and records.

Weighmasters spend a lot of their time, particularly during tournaments, manning the weigh stations you find near big boat ramps. Their job is mainly to weigh catches and record measurements, but what goes into it? What goes on behind the scenes and why volunteer?  

Paul Batten has been a weighmaster since the 1980s, and has since worked with numerous clubs around the North Island, weighing full time. His experience is reputable, and he is often asked to do training with newer weighmasters and share his wisdom across the country. He even assisted in the creation of the New Zealand Sport Fishing Club Weigh Person’s Responsibilities papers.

When asked about his time volunteering and his knowledge of fishing, he talked passionately. Despite being on land most of the time, he still feels strongly involved with the fishing community.

Going the extra mile

The job isn’t as easy as you may think. It’s not just a bunch of mates sitting around in a small shed, watching the fish come in. It requires work and dedication without much expected in return.

 “Weigh mastering is the domain of the volunteer - one who will turn out when requested,” says Paul.

“You must have the spare time, commitment and willingness be go the extra mile at times, and an outstanding personality. Even when it rains the fish still must be weighed. If you are lucky, you get a meal and a drink or two to stay hydrated as a thank you.”

Paul often does talks in clubs to help new weighmasters and share his wisdom, but you are not expected to go through extensive training or be highly experienced when first starting out. “Experience will be gained on the job,” he says. “As far as training goes, you might get a hand for the first few fish you weigh. On the NZSFC website we have a digital copy of our records booklet that has the IGFA & NZSFC angling rules world and NZ records.”

There are certainly a lot of skills and knowledge needed to give an advantage while learning to weigh. Spending time considering the differences between species that look similar will be useful, as identifying less common varieties of fish will certainly come up. It is also handy to understand the different tackle that can be used, especially during competitions.

The job itself involves the usual housekeeping of a weigh station - making sure that the area and equipment is well maintained.

Paul considers the weigh station to be the front door of the club, where you meet members, press and the public that watch fishing getting weighed.

Making sure that the club looks appealing is a big part of the weigh master’s job.

During competitions, the job changes. More fish come in, and more paper work is involved. Weigh masters are expected to set the stage, check data entry forms, keep the weigh boards clean and prepare the sponsorship advertisements.

Extensive knowledge

Weigh masters also tend to be around longer than the set times for weighing during competitions, keen to accommodate for those whose trips were drawn out thanks to a feisty fish.

It’s not just about weighing fish either. A weighmaster needs to be able to identify the species, and have enough knowledge about the tackle used to be able to declare a catch legal for the purposes it is being weighed for.

Checking gear, particularly for competitions and records, is often thorough and detailed. A weigh master also needs to be able to do the appropriate paper work and data collections for this.

Volunteering for such a job certainly has its perks, however. Paul struggles to remember a bad experience, but has many good stories to tell.

“I weighed a sailfish caught in Tutukaka Harbour one Easter,” recalls Paul. “It was caught in a flounder net. And I weighed the first recognised Wahoo for NZ.”

Full of excitement

He describes the atmosphere of weigh stations during competitions as “exciting”. The radio is alive with chatter, supporting the angler who has been hooked on a big fish for most of the afternoon. Even well after the weigh period has ended, and the club has closed, well-wishers will still hover around a VHF, giving calls of encouragement until the boat calls in saying they got it. This is one of Paul’s favourite things about the community.

Paul loves what he does, and fondly talks of why he does it. “It’s the people you meet, the fish you get to see, the lures used, the stories told and creating the atmosphere before that special fish comes in to be weighed.”

If volunteering to be a weigh master sounds interesting to you, you can offer to assist at your local fishing club. If you would like to read more about the responsibilities of the job, go to:


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