How to Measure Saltwater Fish

Most finfish size limit regulations of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) use either Fork Length or Total Length.

These measurement methods provide a consistent, well defined measurement technique. These methods encourage angler compliance with fishery management regulations.

For more information please visit the Fish Length Measurement FAQs.
Watch a Public Service Announcement about Measuring Fish. (wmv 1MB)

Total Length Measurement
Total Length is now measured from the most forward point of the head, with the mouth closed, to the farthest tip of the tail with the tail compressed or squeezed, while the fish is lying on its side.

Fork Length Measurement
Fish regulated by fork length are measured from the tip of the jaw or tip of the snout with closed mouth to the center of the fork in the tail.




How to rig a Duster with Stingers
for King & Spanish Mackerel

Rigging supplies:
You will need the following materials from your local tackle shop to make the rigs mentioned above:
Heavy Duty Rigging Pliers
#4 4X Strong Bronze Laser Sharpened Treble Hooks
1/0 Heavy Duty Bronze Live Bait Hooks
33 to 70 Pound Single Strand Stainless Steel Wire

Three advantages to this rig are:
1) They are more colorful and sometimes appear to be more effective attracting fish.
2) The duster helps conceal the live/dead bait hook.
3) The duster helps cover the bait's mouth subsequently keeping them from creating drag and helps the bait troll true (no spin).

1. Roll off 10" of steel wire. Attach a treble hook to each end of the wire using a haywire twist. This should result in two treble hook joined with 6" of wire between them.
2. Cut off 10" of steel wire again and attach a 1/0 live bait hook to one end using a Haywire Twist. Now put the other end of the wire through the eye of one of the treble hooks and attach it using a Haywire Twist. You should now have a live bait hook attached to a treble hook with 6" of wire separating them and another 6" of wire followed by another treble hook.
3. Now roll off 4' of wire. Run one end of the wire through the eye of the live bait hook and attach it using a Haywire Twist. Now slide the duster down the head leader.
4. Next Run one end of the wire through the eye of a dark colored swivel and attach it using a Haywire Twist


1. Weighted dusters are used to troll the bait deeper in the water, and usually used when troll speeds are 3.5-5 knots. For Kayak use this rig may be configured with a float to suspend the bait in the water column

2. The suggested lengths of the leader should be adjusted to your personal preference. You may need to adjust the length of leader between hooks based on the size of you baits. Smaller baits may require shorter leader length between the hooks. The second "stinger hook" should be less than 6" behind the tail of the bait. Also the length of the head leader may be adjusted for personal preference, we find that 4ft allows enough room to keep the mono away from the fish's fins but yet is still short enough that fish do not have to be wired to the boat before being gaffed.

3. Hooking the baits (dead or live) through the nose with the live bait hook look more natural when hooked this way. I usually hook mine from under the chin up through the nose and it will help keep the mouth closed but it is critical to hook centerline so the fish will pull without spinning.


Haywire Twist

Thread on your hook, ring or swivel and make a loop in the wire, holding tag and main strand apart with thumb and finger.

Then rotate the loop so that a twist forms

Complete four or five twists then bend the tag back to make a sharp, right angle bend.

This helps prevent the twists springing apart and enables you to begin the next step more easily.

Rotate the wire loop as before, this time guiding the tag into a series of tight rolls around the main strand or standing part.

Having completed up to half a dozen tight rolls, make a right–angle bend in the tag to form a crank–handle.

Holding the barrel–roll firmly between thumb and finger, rotate the crank–handle until the tag snaps off flush with the barrel–rolls.



1. One of the most common mistakes made by anglers when tying a Haywire Twist is wrapping one wire around the other during the initial set of twists. The two wires should be wrapped together rather than one around the other as noted in Figure 1. Also we highly recommend using the dog leg twist technique to remove the tag end of the leader so as not to leave any burrs that may stick you in the finger.
2. When making loops with the Haywire Twist it is important not to make loops too small. Small loops do not allow hooks to move freely and if the hooks cannot move freely the bait is restricted in it's ability to move and may not look natural. The loops should be oval in shape and 1/2" long and 3" wide.
3. We recommend the use of bronze hooks because studies show that these hooks will rust within a matter of months if left in fish, thus improving the chances of survival for fish that are released or break off.



Venting your fish for release, when fish is brought up from deep water (grater that 50 ft) if the fish exibits the following signs; inverted stomach, eyes bugging and scales ruptured due to rapid change in pressure.


How the Air Bladder Works:
Swim bladders are a closed organ in a fish’s abdominal cavity. Containing gasses, it is regulated by the fish to allow it to remain at a constant depth. As the fish moves shallower, outside pressure on the fish reduces and the fish compensates by adjusting its air bladder. The reverse is true as the fish moves deeper. Some fish are able to make faster adjustments to their swim bladder than others, but despite that ability, they still have issues of they are brought to the surface too quickly from deep water.

The Problem:
The problem occurs when a fish is brought to the surface too quickly, unable to keep up with the pressure change. The air bladder actually bursts inside the fish allowing those gasses to fill the abdominal cavity, and often pushing the stomach out of the mouth. The proper thing to do is vent the abdominal cavity, not poke a hole in the fish’s stomach. It turns out that the air bladder will heal if vented properly.

Big Fish in Trouble:
In the winter time, some fish that normally inhabit shallow water will migrate offshore to deeper water. This is particularly true of the redfish – red drum. They cannot regulate their swim bladder as well as the native deep water fish. Consequently, when some of these giant reds come to the surface too quickly, their air bladder bursts about half way up, pushing their stomach into their throat and floating them to the surface like some giant cork.

Take Heed:
Every angler needs to pay particular attention to these giant red drum. These are the big brood stock. Over a wreck or reef in water deeper than about fifty feet, these big reds can sometimes be caught one after another. My practice, when I find a reef covered with reds, is to move to another location. The mortality, while lower when we vent them properly, is still high on fish like these.

Vent For Life - Help preserve our deep sea fish population! This vent tool is designed for use on fish brought up from deep water (approx. 50 ft or more) and exhibits inverted stomach, eyes bugging and scales ruptured due to rapid change in pressure. It will help in reviving the fish while causing minimal damage. Look for it at your nearest tackle shop! Important Note: New NOAA regulation (Amendment 27/14) require all vessels fishing in the Gulf of Mexico to carry a venting tool onboard. Click here for the Southeast Fishery Bulletin in PDF. For further information please visit

1. Product Gallery Directions: Open your venting needle and lock it.

2. Place the venting needle on a 45 degree angle approximately 1 to 2 inches behind the base of the pectoral fin as shown.

3. Insert the needle only enough to release the gases. The sound of the escaping gas is audible and deflation is noticeable

If the fish is extremely bloated, a slight pressure on the fish's abdomen will aid in deflation. DO NOT PUNCTURE THE FISH'S INVERTED STOMACH.

4. Revive the fish by holding the fish underwater and allow water to enter its gills.

5. Close your vent needle and make sure it locks down, snapping into place.

6.Place the Vent For Life tool in its safety pouch. Safty Warning: Make sure you lock in your venting needle(you will hear a snap) into place and store it in a safe pouch. This will help prevent any accidental puncture to you or others. Where to buy: You can purchase this fish venting tool at,5124.html