In the late 70s, when I first fished for carp, the most common method of weighing my captures was with a plastic bag and bar spring scale.
These scales are still sold in huge numbers for anglers.
Their popularity being due to a very low cost and widespread availability. Their disadvantage would be accuracy. The spring has a tendency to relax over time and it’s elasticity can be affected by temperature. The display readout has very limited granularity.
Over the last 30 years products have advanced significantly to enable the carp angler safely, securely and accurately weigh their captures, from the latest technology in digital scales to dedicated weigh slings, tripods, crooks and bars.
Today, the most common style of scale used by the modern carp anglers would be the hanging scale, either mechanical or digital. With prices ranging from but a few dollars, to hundreds of dollars, a very high level of accuracy can now be achieved in weighing your trophy capture. When selecting a scale, look for models that include a “tare” feature to zero out the scale, minus the weight of your wet sling.
When it comes to actually weighing the carp, never lip-grip weigh the fish; place the carp in a sling, make sure all the fins are flat against the body, then weigh both together. Make sure all surfaces the carp comes in contact with are wet first and free of abrasive or sharp objects. Keep the fish as low to the ground, or above the mat as possible when weighing. If you are using a sling, and it has zippers on each end, use them to prevent the fish from sliding or wriggling out. There are many weigh slings available at all price points, many of which can also be used as a retainer to keep the fish out in the water, safe and secure before handling.
Have your weighing solution setup in advance and ready to go. I usually set mine up before I even cast out. I keep a bucket with water close and refill it on a regular basis to keep the water fresh and cool. Always be thinking of the safety of the fish and the amount of time it is out of the water.
When it comes to lifting up the scale to weigh the fish there are a number of options available. For the most accurate weight you don’t want to be using your hands touching the scale. A simple 10-12″ metal weigh bar, with handles and a hook to attach the scale, works well – the larger versions allow a couple of people together to lift a really big fish.
There are crook/bar solutions, a long metal rod, one end can be anchored on the ground (against your foot), the other with a hook to lift the scale. This gives you a very good lever action to offset the weight and lift right over the mat. These work really well, especially for heavy fish.
Finally there are weigh tripods, with a hook atop to hang the scale from. I have been using the Cygnet Sniper Weigh Tripod for the past few seasons, a very effective and solid solution which meets all my needs. Ensure the tripod legs are stable and secure before use, especially on uneven ground or in high wind. If the legs have feet, which can be pegged down, use the pegs!
Whatever the weigh solution you choose to use it is important to regularly check the calibration of your scales. A simple method to do this yourself is to take a 5 gallon bucket, hang it from the scales and zero them. You can then add progressively gallons of water and check the reading. In the US, one gallon of water weighs 8.34 lb’s, and for each additional gallon; 16.69 / 25 / 33.38 and finally 41.7 lb’s at 5 gallons. You could use bags of sugar, 3 lb, 5 lb’s, or weight lifting weights – basically, any known weight quantity in the bucket.
In the USA, scale certification is now available on any scale purchased from Big Carp Tackle, free of charge when purchasing a new scale. If you have a set of scales that you would like to get ICFA (International Carp Fishing Association) checked and certified, you can send them your scales and get them certified for a fee. The certification is typically good for 1 year before needing to be re-certified. The certification is printed on a weatherproof label and placed on the back of the scale.
I would highly recommend you watch Brian’s Wingard’s step-by-step carp care series of videos, where he shows you all aspects of carp care; from netting the fish to taking photographs of your captures!
Carp care starts from before you even cast your line out into the water, from the location you fish to the tackle you use, to landing the fish and unhooking, to weighing the capture and returning it safely to the water.