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Tagging Saltwater Fish

Updated on November 4, 2014

Saltwater Fish Tagging Programs and Techniques

Why Do Scientists and Fishermen Tag Fish?

Saltwater fish tagging programs have an array of uses, but almost all tagging programs share on thing in common; the goal of gathering data about fish. Most tagging programs seek information on fish movements, growth, behavior and mortality.

Simple fish tags have printed information and instructions on how to return the tag. These tags remain on the fish until it is harvested. Some high tech tags monitor and record data. Some fish tags even pop off the fish and float to the surface where they transmit information or are recovered by scientists.

Game Fish Tagging Programs

The following list includes some of the many saltwater fish tagging programs:

Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, Virginia Gamefish Tagging Program

Lewis Gillingham

968 S. Oriole Drive

Virginia Beach, VA 23451

(757) 491 - 5160

(757) 491-5172 (fax)

North Carolina Adult or Juvenile Red Drum Tagging Program

Lee Paramore

P.O. Box 769

Morehead City, NC 28557


South Carolina DNR Adult Red Drum

Tagging Program

Bryan Frazier

PO Box 12559

Charleston, SC 29422-2559


Georgia Cooperative Angler Tagging


Donna McDowell

One Conservation Way, Suite 300

Brunswick, Georgia 31520


Most programs offer rewards for re-captured tags.

In Virginia the reward varies, either a t-shirt, hat, fish pin, or plastic utility box.

North Carolina offers $5 or a hat.

South Carolina offers a hat.

In Georgia the reward varies, but usually consists of a t-shirt or hat.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science White Marlin Tagging

In a Virginia Institute of Marine Science study on white marlin, some surprises were found about where they spend the majority of their day and how deep they actually go. The white marlin study also found a big difference in survival between fish caught on circle hooks (58 of 59 survived; <2% post-release mortality) as compared to J-hooks (13 of 20 survived; 35% post-release mortality).

Field Guides to Saltwater Fish from Amazon Books

Commercial Fisheries Tagging Programs

Fisheries regulators and scientists also rely on fish tagging programs.

Among the many tagging programs are projects from NOAA's Northeast Fisheries office which tag cod, haddock and other groundfish.

Commercial Fisheries tagging programs include:

Cooperative Black Seabass Tagging Project -

Cooperative Scup Tagging Project -

Cooperative Shark Tagging Program -

Northeast Regional Cod Tagging Program -

Northeast Consortium Haddock Tagging Program -

Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermens Association, Haddock Tagging -

Northeast Fisheries Science Center -



Florescent green circular tags are pinned through the anterior dorsal region of the fish (see graphic). The "button" portion of the tag bears a serial number and a contact phone number. A select number of fish will also have acoustic tracking tags attached. We encourage the release of any tagged fish with the tag still attached, especially sub-legal sized fish, so that further data can be collected from subsequent recaptures. Any fish with tracking tags should be retained since the tags are reusable.

Whom to contact?

Fishermen encountering these tags are requested to report recapture information to Paul Caruso at the following addresses or phone number:

Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries

1213 Purchase St- 3rd Floor

New Bedford, MA 02740


Phone number 508-990-2860 x 107

What to report?

The serial number, location of recapture, date captured, length of the fish, and your name, address, and telephone number should all be

reported. Responders will receive a reward, and randomly selected responders will receive a $100 gift certificate, good for the purchase of fishing equipment or supplies.

Why are summer flounder being tagged?

Summer flounder are being tagged in Massachusetts's waters to determine movement patterns and if the same fish return to local waters in subsequent years. Results of this study could allow the evaluation of alternative management strategies in the future that could benefit local fisheries.

Do You Tag Fish?

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    • DailyRogue profile image

      DailyRogue 6 years ago

      Lots of good info here. I know about tag and release for catching billfish in Texas, but not sure if there's any other tagging here. It's a great idea.

    • PhiladelphiaWri profile image

      PhiladelphiaWri 7 years ago

      Never have tagged a fish, but I know it's important work to collect relevant information. Helpful lens. Thumbs up!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I don't know if the guest book comments were working every time yesterday, so I stopped back to see if it was here. - I thought this is an interesting lens, and enjoy learning about things. Guess I never even thought about tagging fish. Thanks!

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      I had no idea that fish were tagged, but it makes sense when I think about it. We learn something new everyday on Squidoo. Thanks for sharing this, interesting lens.