Rules for Specimen Fish Claimants

Rules for Specimen Fish Claimants

Where the angler can be proactive in claiming specimens?

The Irish Specimen Fish Committee encourages all anglers to return specimen fish alive whenever feasible. ISFC rules do not require that all fish species are killed to claim a specimen. This is a misconception by many with regard to claiming a specimen. Bodies are required for a small number of species but good quality photography is alleviating this requirement and most anglers have access to good cameras.

Angler preparedness is key to claiming a specimen and ISFC is keen to assist anglers to practice catch and release of specimens. A number of species have lengths set for length based specimen claims. Carrying a measuring mat and camera with you when fishing will make claiming a specimen a simple task. Alternatively if the angler has a certified personal scales* she can weigh the live specimen on land and return it alive to the water. Fish caught on a boat require to be weighed on terra firma (i.e. point of departure, island, rocky outcrop) to ensure weights are accurate as fish cannot be weighed accurately “on board”. Most coarse fish, pike and sea anglers are well versed in weighing specimens and have personalised or certified club weighing scales with them when angling. Trout and salmon anglers need to embrace this approach so that they can practice catch, weigh or measure, photograph, release and claim their specimen fish.

Before you make a claim, please read the following

RULE 1: Irish Specimen Fish Committee
RULE 2: Fair Angling
RULE 3: Weighing
RULE 4: Identification
RULE 5: Limitation on number of claims
RULE 6: Sending Fish to the Committee
RULE 7: Awards


Rule 1:

Irish Specimen Fish Committee

This Committee consists of representatives of the Irish Angling Federations and the Government Departments and official organisations interested in angling. Its objective is to verify, record and publicise the capture of large fish on rod and line in Irish waters. A list of Specimen Fish is published annually by the Committee. Only fish which can be fully vouched for as to weight and species can be accepted and listed by the Committee. Except in exceptional circumstances claims will remain valid for a period of one year following the year of capture (up to 31st Dec of the year).

Rule 2:

Fair Angling

“Fair Angling” means any legitimate method of angling with rod and reel which is recognised as a fair and sporting method. A fish must be hooked in or in the immediate vicinity of the mouth when it has taken the bait or lure; fish which have been foul-hooked, even accidentally, are not eligible. A fish in respect of which a claim is made must be hooked, played and brought to gaff or net by the angler UNAIDED, though the fish may be gaffed or netted by another, and it is permissible for the person using the gaff to take hold of the trace or doubled line (in the case of big game fishing) to steady the fish when it has been played out and brought within reach. If a fixed rod holder is in use while boat fishing, and a fish strikes, the rod must be removed from the holder as quickly as possible. This is to ensure that the angler hooks and plays the fish with rod in hand. Where a fighting chair is employed, it must not have any mechanically driven device which aids the angler in playing a fish. Body harnesses (which attach the rod to the body) are permissible but must not be fixed to the chair. Gimbals must be free swinging including those which move in the vertical plane. Gimbals which permit the angler to rest or reduce strain while playing a fish are prohibited. Breakage of rod, reel or line, or alteration or substitution of tackle, while a fish is being played, disqualify it for claim or record purposes. A fish may not be shot, lanced, clubbed or harpooned before landing. Claims for fish caught during the statutory close season for the species (where this applies) cannot be accepted.

Rule 3:

Weighing and Measuring

For ALL SPECIES ≤ 1 kg or ≤ 40 cm TL or FL, the fish must be weighed and claimed in grammes (g) and cm.

Fish must be weighed in the presence of independent, reliable witnesses on a properly certified scales, e.g., a shop scales or an official club scales which is covered by a certificate from the local Weights and Measures Officer (eg. NML or commercial company). Claims cannot be accepted in respect of fish weighed on uncertified scales. Scales must be appropriate to the size of the fish being weighed.

The minimum weight is 10 times the scale interval/ weighing division (e.g. for scales with a 50g interval/division the fish will have to exceed 500g in weight). Where weights are in large divisions (e.g. 0.25kg divisions) the weight of a fish must be rounded DOWN to the nearest actual division.Claims cannot be accepted in the case of fish which has been weighed on board a boat unless weighted on a certified motion – compensated balance.

Please note: All club and personal scales MUST be certified annually by an independent agency. Weighing scales must be covered by a Certificate of Accuracy at the time of weighing. They cannot be certified in retrospect, i.e. after the fish has been weighed. 

All claims (including weight based claims) for elasmobranch (all ray, skate, shark and dogfish) species must be accompanied by photograph(s) showing the fish on a measuring mat (or equivalent) with its total length clearly visible.

Records will be weight based, but, newly listed species, or species without a record weight, can be length based.

LENGTH BASED SPECIMENS: Many species are eligible as length based and weight based specimens (see list Eligible Species; Freshwater Species and Eligible Species – Marine Species). Flapper Skate, White Skate, Porbeagle Shark, Undulate Ray and Angel Shark (aka Monkfish) are eligible as length based specimens ONLY. Fish must be measured belly down (point to point from the nose to end point of the tail and not over curve of body) on a suitable measuring device. Nose to be touching front plate and full extent of fish (total length) being measured to be photographed and submitted with claim. Existing claim form to be used. Fork length only for Porbeagle & Blue Shark. Wingspan length also required for Common Skate & Undulate Ray (fish to be measured on mat/tape NOT over curve of body).


Rule 4:


The identification of a fish must be fully documented where there is a possibility of its confusion with any other (and particularly larger) species. For this reason, the Committee in respect of some species insists on scales from the fish; close up photographs or the actual body as actual proof of identification before it will consider claims.

Fish Scales:

FISH SCALES must be submitted in respect of claims for SALMON, SEA TROUT, BROWN TROUT (including SLOB TROUT) RUDD, ROACH, and their hybrids, DACE and SHAD. Any brown trout taken in tidal waters, i.e., in the sea or in an estuary below the freshwater boundary as defined for that river will be regarded for claim purposes as a slob trout. About 10 scales gently removed from one shoulder of the fish should be sent with each salmonid claim. 3 Scales required from each cyprinid. Three scales are required from Roach and Rudd and their hybrids, and shad for genetic identification. Genetic identification is subject to a charge of €10 per claim to cover the analysis, and payment can be made on the ISFC website.

Clear, Sharp, Close-up Photographs:

CLEAR, SHARP, CLOSE-UP PHOTOGRAPHS, showing the entire fish with its fins and other features easily seen, and not fore-shortened or obscured by shadows or bystanders must be provided in the case of ALLCYPRINIDS, ALL SHARKS, SKATES & RAYS, POLLACK, BALLAN WRASSE, TRIGGERFISH, COALFISH, ALBACORE, TUB GURNARD (pectoral fins of gurnard must be fully expanded), & GILTHEAD BREAM (whole body and head shot showing mouth and eyes).

In the case of skates and rays, photographs of both back and belly surfaces should be provided and particulars of the coloration given (with particular reference to the presence of dark or grey spots, or streaks or patches on the belly side). Detailed photographs of the teeth should be furnished in the case of Mako Sharks. In addition, there should be a clear close-up photograph showing the jaws and teeth exposed.

WHERE PHOTOGRAPHS ARE OF SUFFICIENT QUALITY TO PROVIDE CONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE (i.e. key identification features clearly visible) to identify the following species: ANGLER FISH, BRILL, DAB, LESSER SPOTTED DOGFISH, FLOUNDER, GREY & RED GURNARDS, HERRING, MEGRIM, MACKEREL, GREY MULLET, GOLDEN GREY MULLET, THIN-LIPPED MULLET and RED MULLET, RAYS BREAM, THREE BEARDED ROCKLING, SCAD, TORSK, CUCKOO WRASSE and BLACK BREAM, the body is not required. If the angler is in doubt about image quality, the body can be presented. Body (head and gills only) required for GARFISH.
> 99.5% of fish requiring supporting material for identification are identified by scales, genetics or photographic evidence

Record Fish:

RECORD FISH – A series of clear photographs must accompany all record fish claims. Photographs must show the WHOLE fish on a measuring mat or similar length recording device. Supplementary photographs showing the fish being weighed and the recorded weight would assist further in claim substantiation.

Rule 5:

Limitation on Number of Claims

A maximum of three (3) awards will be made to any particular claimant for a single species in any one year. Claims for additional heavier/longer fish captured can be submitted for review subsequently but only three awards will be made. Only 3 claims for shad (irrespective of species) to be submitted by an individual angler in any year.

Rule 6:

Sending Fish to the Committee

Identification is mainly based on scale or photographic evidence but in the few cases where a body is forwarded please:

  1. (1) Notify the Committee when a fish is being sent in for identification. (Telephone 00-353-1- 8842600; Email:
  2. (2) Do not forward fish before Bank Holidays or weekends; (keep in a cold store if fish cannot be delivered quickly on or before Friday afternoon).
  3. (3) Attach a label to each fish forwarded for identification giving the captor’s name and address, date and place of capture and the weight of the fish.
  4. (4) Do not send fish in polythene bags or wrapped in aluminium foil as this causes rapid decomposition. Specimen fish should be wrapped in greaseproof paper and then in newspaper and brown paper.

Rule 7:


Anglers whose claims have been accepted by the Committee will be awarded special ‘Merit Badges’ in the case of Specimen Fish, and Silver Medals in the case of Record Fish. Specimen Fish Certificates will also be issued in respect of all ratified claims. Only one merit badge will be awarded to any angler per annum even where multiple claims are received. Specially commissioned awards are made to anglers for cumulative specimen fish captures of 20 species, 10 species, 50 specimens or 10 specimens. Other special awards are the Dr. Micheal Kennedy Award (Mullet of the year), the Dr. Arthur Went Award (Young Specimen Angler of the Year), the Minister’s Award (Fish of a Lifetime), Best Length Specimen and the Best International Specimen Fish Award (for the best overseas angler specimen).

Completed Claim Forms

Completed claim forms should be send to the address below before 31 October each year.  Where required for identification purposes (see Rule 4) fish should be sent to the same address. Scales from shad and cyprinids must be received before 15th of October.

For Freshwater and Marine fish taken in the Rep. of Ireland

Name:Irish Specimen Fish Committee
Address:c/o Inland Fisheries Ireland,
3044 Lake Drive,
Citywest Business Campus,
Dublin 24,
Tel:+353 (0)1 884 2600


For marine fish taken in Northern Ireland please contact:

Name:Dr. Stephen Beggs
Address: AFBINI,
Newforge Lane,
Belfast BT9 5PX.
Tel:+44 (0) 28 90 9025 5503


For freshwater fish taken in Northern Ireland please contact:

Name:Dr. Robert Rosell
Newforge Lane,
Belfast BT9 5PX.
Tel:+44 (0) 28 9025 5236
Fax:+44 (0) 28 9025 5004


Deadline dates:

Shad and Cyprinid Hybrids

Scales from shad and cyprinid hybrids for genetic analysis must be forwarded to Irish Specimen Fish Committee before 15th October each year.

All other claims

All other claims should be forwarded to the Irish Speciment Fish Committee before 31 October each year. Where required for identification purposes (see Rule 4), fish should be sent to the same address.

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