2011’s Top Volunteer Fish Taggers Recognized

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2011’s Top Volunteer Fish Taggers Recognized

Taggers show off their plaques at the 2011 Tagger Awards.

Taggers show off their plaques at the 2011 Tagger Awards. ©Will Sweatt/VASG

Top taggers of 2011 come to Bass Pro Shop to get recognized for their efforts. ©Will Sweatt/VASG

Some of the top taggers of 2011 come to Bass Pro Shop to get recognized for their efforts. (front, left to right: Donnie Smith, Jim Robinson, Carl Stover; back, left to right: Susanna Musick, Wayne Rowe, Sheldon Arey, Ed Shepherd, Lewis Gillingham.) ©Will Sweatt/VASG

By Janet Krenn

Volunteers in Virginia’s Game Fish Tagging Program tagged more than 19,000 fish in 2011, and on February 24, volunteer anglers who out-tagged their colleagues in any of 12 categories, including most tagged fish overall, most recaptured fish, and most tagged fish of a single species were recognized for their efforts. First place taggers in each category received a plaque, and runners-up received a tackle bucket with fishing gear provided by the Bass Pro Shop.

Taggers show off their plaques at the 2011 Tagger Awards.

Wayne Rowe (left) and Jim Robinson (right) show off their plaques at the 2011 Tagger Awards. ©Will Sweatt/VASG

“Throughout the 17-year history of the Tagging Program, there’s a lot that we’ve discovered through tag-and-release fishing,” says Susanna Musick, Tagging Program coordinator at VIMS and Virginia Sea Grant Marine Recreation Specialist.

“One exciting thing we learned through the taggers’ data was that there seems to have been a large influx of juvenile speckled trout in 2011,” she says. As a result, more than 12,500 speckled trout were tagged and nearly 900 were recaptured. These results are important because speckled trout have had one of the lowest recapture rates amongst the targeted species in the Tagging Program. The recapture rate rose from 2.4% to 7% and speckled trout became the top-tagged species for the second year in a row. The tagging program provides a mechanism for documenting these inter-annual and seasonal fluctuations through concentrated tagging effort. These results also show the growing popularity of speckled trout as a game fish species.

The Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program has been a cooperative project of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC) and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) for more than 17 years.

Supported by funding from Virginia’s saltwater license funds and VIMS, the Program provides data on migration patterns and habitat utilization of 10 species of recreationally important finfish. By donating their time, the volunteer taggers provide fisheries managers with unique data unavailable elsewhere.

“The Game Fish Tagging Program is only possible because of the anglers who volunteer their time to fish, tag, collect and report data,” Musick said. “We’re very lucky to have such an extraordinary group of volunteers who contribute to this important source of recreational fisheries data.”

This year’s Tagger Awards winners were:

Most Tagged Fish Overall
  • Ed Shepherd
  • Sheldon Arey
Most Recaptures
  • Ed Shepherd
  • Donnie Smith
Most Tagged Black Drum
  • Jim Robinson
  • Carl Stover
Most Tagged Black Sea Bass
  • Ed Shepherd
  • Rob Collins
Most Tagged Cobia
  • Captain Jorj Head
  • Brian Watkins
Most Tagged Flounder
  • Ed Shepherd
  • Captain Mike Handforth
Most Tagged Red Drum
  • Jim Robinson
  • Captain Ed Lawrence
Most Tagged Sheepshead
  • Wayne Rowe
  • Rob Collins
Most Tagged Spadefish
  • Carl Stover
  • Jim Robinson
Most Tagged Speckled Trout
  • Ed Shepherd
  • Sheldon Arey
Most Tagged Tautog
  • Rob Collins
  • Sam Sellard
Most Tagged Triggerfish
  • Rob Collins
  • Rick Guyot