Give your scale a turkey test
I recently wrote a column for Michigan Outdoor News’ print edition about how inaccurate “guessing” a fish’s weight is for most people, from either a photo or even when the fish is in hand. The only way to guarantee a fish’s exact weight is to put it on a scale.
But all scales don’t weigh with equal accuracy. That’s why there’s a team of “scale” inspectors hustling around the state checking commercial scales – from tiny scales used in pharmacies to weigh mere grams of ingredients to huge scales that weigh truckloads of products. Most high-quality scales have adjustments so when the inspector puts a 10-pound weight on the scale it can be adjusted to show exactly 10 pounds. Once it does, it becomes “certified.”
Few of the scales fishermen use are certified. Most aren’t adjustable. That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be certified or are inaccurate. But realistically, why bother? Do you care if that steelhead you caught actually weighs seven pound, three ounces or seven pounds, five ounces? Call it seven and a quarter and see if you can catch another one.
Privately owned scales can be certified but unless a fisherman is expecting to catch a world-record sized fish, going through the expense and hassle of certification seems excessive. Still, when I weigh a fish, say that seven pound, three ounce steelhead, I don’t want the scale to show it to weigh eight pounds; or worse, only six pounds.
So I self-certified my fishing scales. I have two scales. One is for big fish and weighs fish up to 30 pounds, the other is for smaller fish and weighs fish up to 10 pounds.
What I did was look around my home for item I knew weighed a specific amount. I had a turkey in the freezer, weighed on a certified scale at the grocer and tagged 21.238 pounds. On my large scale, as best I could read it, the scale showed it to be close to 21 and a quarter. Good enough. On the small scale I weighed a gallon of milk – which will always weigh 8.6 pounds, not counting the container.
I actually weighed the milk on two scales, one was the spring-type scale I usually use and the other was a digital scale I took out of service years ago because the batteries were usually dead when I needed it. The spring scale was close enough for me, the digital, surprisingly, was off by about a half pound, though it could have been the collected dust and spider webs it had gathered.
The point is to check your scales with things with known weights or that were weighed on certified scales. They might be right. They might be wrong. They might be close enough, but at least you’ll know.