I have come to grips with the terminology, but I can remember the first time someone mentioned catching a 22-inch spotted seatrout.

I, of course, congratulated them on the nice catch. But in my mind I was wondering: "What do you mean a 22-inch trout? Don't you mean you caught a trout that weighed three or four pounds. In this part of the world, we don't use length to talk about how big the fish was."

That was a few years back. Now, however, length is an accepted unit of measurement when bragging about a catch.

And the International Game Fish Association is joining in. Beginning Jan. 1, 2011, IGFA will add a 100-percent release category to its world records section (www.igfa.org).

IGFA's All-Tackle Length Record category will make 60 freshwater and 67 saltwater species eligible for new world records while requiring that the fish be returned to the water alive after measurement.

"The new All-Tackle Length record category is another great means of recognizing angler achievement and also has a strong conservation message," said IGFA World Records Coordinator Jack Vitek. "While the IGFA does not require a fish to be killed for traditional weight category records, and many fish are indeed released alive, this is the first IGFA record category to adopt an all-release format."

Vitek added that with no need to return to the docks to weigh a catch, anglers pursuing a length record will utilize a standard measuring device (now available at $49.95 online at igfa.org and soon through several major fishing tackle retailers) to record the length of their catch. According to the official IGFA Rules and Requirements for All-Tackle Length Records, the fish "must be measured at the site of capture and released so that it swims away on its own and in good condition."

To facilitate healthy release, the document also includes tips on best release practices and prohibits fish entered for length records from also being submitted for traditional weight records; another deterrent from keeping the fish out of the water any longer than necessary.

"Catch and release fishing is becoming increasingly popular worldwide," stated IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser. "We know recreational anglers are passionate about conservation, and this new record category reflects their dedication to conserving game fish."

So, if you've always imagined yourself landing a world record fish, now is the time. It's wide open.