Measuring boards have a history here on the Kenai River, and that history is due to one simple fact… our trout get HUGE. We are so spoiled by our spectacular trout fishery that fish up to 20+ inches barely get acknowledged at all, and you can forget about taking the time to actually measure each and every one of them. But a trout in the 25-30+ inch range, those are the fish that get a Kenai trout fisherman’s attention! When a special fish like this graces us with its presence and provides us an opportunity to take a closer look, we want to capture every last detail possible. We want to know the length, the girth, the unique spotting pattern, the intensity of the stripe, and we definitely want to get a great picture! This is where a measuring board comes in handy. A measuring board is simply an improved version of a measuring stick, and always include a ridge at the zero mark of the board, where the nose of the fish rests against for accuracy. In catch and release fisheries it’s important that the angler is able to quickly and safely get accurate measurements of their fish in order to decrease handling time and give the fish its best chance at survival. A measuring board is the right tool for the job.
You can find a wide variety of measuring boards from different manufacturers that measure more modest sized fish without a problem, but finding one that can measure a more sizable fish is no easy task. Years ago, Dunwright made a fold-out measuring board that extended plenty far enough, and although it was a little bulky and actually intended for measuring Muskie, it worked perfectly for magnum Kenai trout. Unfortunately, Dunwright quit making the measuring board and Kenai trout anglers were left up a creek without a measuring board, unless they wanted to spend hundreds of dollars on one of the few bulky and ridiculously expensive options left on the market. Nobody did. But fly fishermen are a crafty bunch, and many decided to simply make their own measuring boards. I’ve seen boards made out of wood and a variety of hard plastics, and while they serve their purpose, it’s somewhat time consuming to make them, they eventually rot out, and most of them are pretty bulky and awkward to store in a boat that’s already littered with rods, tackle bags, bead boxes, coolers, etc.
The Hawg Trough measuring board, made and sold by Cabela’s, just might be the solution Kenai trout anglers are looking for. Here are some of the features of the Hawg Trough measuring board that are of interest to folks looking to quickly, safely, and accurately measure their giant Kenai River rainbow trout:
The Length – The length of this measuring board is really what sets it apart from other measuring boards on the market. While other measuring boards max-out in the 20 inch range, the Hawg Trough is an awesome 30 inches in length! This allows Kenai trout anglers to accurately measure most of the trout they catch. If they’re lucky enough to land a fish larger than that, a bit of creativity can get the accurate measurement you’re looking for, and no one feels sorry for you and your “problem” anyway. In a perfect world the Hawg Trough would be more like 35 inches, but 30 inches is at least a step in the right direction.
The Width – I was initially worried about the lack of width in this measuring device, but when I got it out on the river and had the pleasure of putting a few Kenai River fatties into the Hawg Trough I was pleasantly surprised. Although a large trout’s body extends well beyond the width of the measuring board itself, the concave design allows larger fish to rest easily on the device without any issues at all.
Weight – The thing most people are surprised about when the Hawg Trough arrives at their doorstep is how light it is. This is great for most applications because it makes transport and use so easy. But for anglers flying up the river at 30 mph in their open-bowed boat, they better find a safe place to store the device or they’ll be back to measuring their trout with a measuring tape in a hurry.
Durability – The lightweight design makes the Hawg Trough a little more breakable than some other devices on the market. It’s not ultra-brittle, and can handle being banged around a bit, but I’m not so sure it would hold up to the full weight of you and your wading boot stepping on it. This is yet another reason to find a handy & safe place to store the device in-between fish big encounters.
Flotation – This is the real down-side of the Hawg Trough device in my opinion, especially for anglers looking to measure their fish while hanging over the side of a boat. On the product’s review page some anglers have solved the problem by adding their own flotation (such as cork or foam) but a consumer shouldn’t have to alter the product in order to use it effectively.
Price – The thrifty price of only $19.99 makes up for the Hawg Trough’s only weaknesses mentioned above (durability and flotation). If your Hawg Trough sinks to the bottom of the river, or snaps in half when you step on it, then you can probably afford to simply buy a new one. In fact, you can buy 1o Hawg Trough’s when compared to many other devices on the market that measure up to 30 inches!
Overall the Hawg Trough is my measuring device of choice for big Kenai River trout, at least until someone comes out with a better design. I’d venture to guess it would work well for other species too. If you could just add half a foot, some flotation, and keep it in the same price range you’d have the dream measuring board. Maybe someone out there with the entrepreneurial spirit will decide to take a shot at mass producing the “perfect” measuring board for big trout? 1, 2, 3, NOT IT!
So, what do you use to measure the fish you plan on releasing? Inquiring minds want to know…