Some boat captains build boats in their back yards, while others build rods or fishing lures in their garage.
Capt. Bud Miller took a different route — he built a computer fish scale system in his great room.
Miller, who lives and fishes out of Destin, has a patent on his Fish & Game Scales which are located on the docks at the Destin Fishing Fleet Marina behind Brotula’s Seafood and Steamer.
The big blue machine, which resembles the look of a free-standing ATM machine, is easy to use.
“Don’t be scared to use it,” Miller said. “It’s easy, it’s friendly, just follow the prompts. There’s not much to it.”
The touch screen computer only asks for four things. The name of the boat, what species of fish is being weighed, how many anglers went fishing and how many fish were caught.
The angler then hangs their fish on the hook provided at the scale. The computer scale records the weight and then spits out a receipt of the catch with the weight.
What was the driving force behind developing the Fish & Game Scales?
Capt. Miller said he actually came up with the idea about 12 years ago when the fisheries started having shorter seasons.
“Everything in the Gulf of Mexico is driven by weight. Every species of fish we harvest has to have weights,” he said.
And right now everything is estimated, Miller said.
“And estimations are not real good,” he added.
He actually drew out a picture of the system, but put it away until about three years ago.
“When the seasons got really short … I got it back out and drew it out on graph paper and started talking to my pastor about it,” Miller said.
The pastor thought it was such a good idea he suggested Miller get an attorney and a patent on the system.
When the attorney gave him the go-ahead, he put the plan in action and built the Fish & Game Scales prototype about 2½ years ago.
Since then he has showed it to the fishery people at the national and state level, as well as to folks in Alabama and Mississippi marine systems, but hasn’t got a bite on his system.
“None of the states have shown much interest in it,” Miller said. “So I guess we’re just stuck with estimations.
“My thoughts are, the more data we’ve got the better off we are,” he said.
With his system, data is instantaneous. Not only does it print out a receipt but it sends an email. Right now the emails are going to Miller, but it can be set up to go to other entities.
Since his first prototype, he has developed a second that actually takes two photos of the fish as it is being weighed in — one from the top and the other from the side — which verifies the actual species of fish.
The system doesn’t track anything about the person, or the location, it only tracks what boat the fish was caught on, how many fish and the weight. Plus it’s available 24/7, unlike the dockside surveys taken by the state fisheries.
Miller placed the Fish & Game Scale at Fishing Fleet just a few days before red snapper season opened on June 1.
“A lot of people are playing with it right now. The youngsters really like to touch the buttons because it’s a touch screen,” he said.
The scale can weigh any species up to 250 pounds.
Right now the system is free to use, but Miller is hoping to get $2 per angler per year to use the device.
“We can put hundreds of them out, because there are thousands and thousands of anglers. All we’re looking for is 2 bucks.”
Miller said he can build one in six to eight weeks.
“We’re not weighing our fish … and we’re not going to get anything better until we weigh our fish,” he said. The end goal for the Fish & Game Scales “is to know how many fish we catch and the weight.”
“And our goal is to have one at every boat launch and marina in the America … let’s get started right here in Destin,” Miller added.