Does bagging fish for a show seem like hours of endless sorting, pouring, pulling knots and stuffing bags? When I first started showing, I quickly realized that I needed a few hours to get through the whole process of packing my prized fish up. After a few late night sessions I thought to myself, “There has to be a quicker way of doing this!”

I present to you  what I have come up with to streamline the process.  I don’t expect to blow any minds here—but if I can help you save some time or encourage breeders to send more fish to shows, then I’ve done my part.

  1. Completed entry form
  2. Open work surface (6 foot folding tables work great)
  3. Waste water bucket
  4. Clean water bucket
  5. Measuring cup
  6. Deli cups, SOLO cups or beanies (twice as many as fish entered)
  7. Black Sharpie
  8. Bags
  9. Net (optional, for escapees)

Set Up:

I have most of my show fish in 32 oz. deli cups on heated racks, this makes things easy for me because I can pick the cups up and move them where-ever I like.  Some of them are in a barracks system, but I can still use the speed bagging process for them as well.


Step 1:  Set your fish in their individual containers, in the order on your entry form in a long line from left to right on your table.  Make multiple rows if necessary. *Hint:  A 6 ft table will hold 15 32 oz. deli cups from left to right.  If you have fish that are in non-mobile containers, then set a place holder cup in their position with a little water.  Net and move those fish into their respective spots.

Speed Bagging Step 1

Step 2: Place a mirror image line up of containers in front on your fish.  I use extra deli cups but if you don’t have extras just use the big sized SOLO cups from the grocery store.

Speed Bagging Step 2

Step 3:  Get all your gear together.  Place your waste water bucket, clean water bucket, bags, measuring cup and optional net where its comfortable for you on the table.  Don’t disturb your cups.

Step 4:  Open and stand up empty bags in each of the empty cups (shown in red above).  Use your measuring cup to fill each bag with your desired amount of water.  IBC regulations call for no less than 1/3 C per bag.

Bagging Water Level

Step 5: Starting with the fish in position #1—Gently pour out the fish’s water into the waste water bucket.  I hold the lid onto the container, cracking the bottom edge just a little to drain — this way the fish cannot jump out.  Keeping the lid pressed in place, bring the fish to the readied #1 bag and release the lid just enough to let the fish slide out into the bag.  Return the container to its original spot on the table—this will help you keep track of where you are.  Repeat this step until all the fish are in their bags in the front rows (shown in red).

Step 6:  Work down the line tightly tying each of your bags at the desired height and placing them back into their correct cups.

Speed Bagging #2

Step 7: Work down the line again to double-bag your fish.

Step 8: Number your bags from left to right.  Double-check with your entry form as you go.

Good luck!  I hope this will save you some time and encourage you to send to more shows.

Labeling Tip

I label all the lids of my deli cups with a fish ID number which is also placed in the remarks column of the entry form.  As I number the bags I will check to make sure the fish I’m numbering is in the mirrored position matching the correct ID number on the entry form.