Quick Way to Stay Legal

By: Capt. Tim Ramsey

Many years ago, during a bluefish blitz out in front of the 10K Islands, I found myself constantly shuffling over to the measuring tape stuck to the inside of the gunwale near the stern. You know the kind; the ones Anglers call a “Law Stick.” My problem was, I had a sore knee brought on by too many years in combat boots, carrying heavy loads, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, and running information at a knee-busting shuffle. Those were the days.

One day it occurred to me that if I held a measuring stick I could figure out the length of a fish and return it to the water or throw it in the cooler in no time. Now I don’t know if I saw this somewhere, or thought it up myself, but I found a solution I that I still use today. Here it is.

Take a yardstick and your fishing rod and lay them down so the end of the yard stick is even with the butt of your rod. Get a silver or gold Sharpie and make a circle around your rod next to the legal size of the fish you like to target. I know that on my G-Loomis rod, the first mark is fifteen inches from the butt in the middle of the front clamp of my reel seat. Fifteen inches is the lower limit of seatrout and the minimum size bluefish or spanish mackerel I will keep, even though that minimum is twelve inches for both.

The next line is in front of my front grip at eighteen inches, the Florida Redfish, tripletail, and New Jersey Summer Flounder (Fluke) minimum length. I don’t fish for flounder in Florida. Redfish have shown up in New Jersey in the last few years and fortunately the NJ redfish regulations are the same as Florida.

The next line on my rod is at nineteen inches, the top of the Florida seatrout limit. I like knowing the size of the fish although I don’t keep trout.

The next line is at twenty-seven inches, the maximum length for a Florida redfish. Again, I like knowing the length, but I don’t keep reds either.

The next line is at twenty-eight inches. This is the minimum legal length for New Jersey striped bass.

The next line is at thirty-one, the maximum limit for New Jersey striped bass. It’s been quite a while since I caught one close to the slot, they are either over or under.

The next mark is thirty-three inches from the butt, the upper limit for snook. Once more, I like to know the size, but I never keep snook. They’re my favorite fish to catch and I want to make sure I can keep catching them, so they all go back.

The last mark is wishful thinking. It is the minimum size for a cobia. Catching a cobia on that rod is quite the adventure but I have been surprised by a couple while tripletail fishing.

So, there it is, a quick, simple way to measure your fish, but to keep you aware of the regulations and out of trouble. If the regulations change, just use a black Sharpie to color over the previous mark and make the new one. Too easy. See you out there.

By the way, if you’re a reader and like fishing stories, check out my new, amazingly cheap, small book of fish stories called “Tim’s Fish Tales, available on Amazon at Amazon.com: Tim’s Fish Tales: A Collection of Stories Just for Fun. Believe them…or Don’t eBook : Ramsey, Tim: Kindle Store