Until 1940, there was no universal code of sporting ethics to guide anglers in their pursuits. The first steps in this direction were taken in the late 1930’s by members of the British Tunny Club, who hoped to formulate rules for ethical angling. However, the looming threat of war interrupted their plans. Shortly after IGFA was founded in 1939, its officers immediately set to the task of establishing angling guidelines and requirements for world record catches.
The following angling rules have been formulated by the International Game Fish Association to promote ethical and sporting angling practices, to establish uniform regulations for the compilation of world game fish records, and to provide basic angling guidelines for use in fishing tournaments and any other group angling activities. The word "angling" is defined as catching or attempting to catch fish with a rod, reel, line, and hook as outlined in the international angling rules. There are some aspects of angling that cannot be controlled through rule making, however.
Angling regulations cannot insure an outstanding performance from each fish, and world records cannot indicate the amount of difficulty in catching the fish. Captures in which the fish has not fought or has not had a chance to fight do not reflect credit on the fisherman, and only the angler can properly evaluate the degree of achievement in establishing the record. Only fish caught in accordance with IGFA international angling rules, and within the intent of these rules, will be considered for world records.
Following are the rules for freshwater and saltwater fishing and a separate set of rules for fly fishing.