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Tagger Ken Neill Sets Record for Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program

Ken Neill holds a tautog that was retagged after a record 2,826 days. ©VGFTP

Ken Neill holds a tautog that was retagged after a record 2,826 days. ©VGFTP

Ken Neill holds a tautog that was retagged after a record 2,826 days. ©VGFTP

Ken Neill holds a tautog that was retagged after a record 2,826 days. ©VGFTP

Virginia Marine Resource Bulletin
Volume 44, Number 2, Summer 2012
By Susanna Musick

In April of 2004, Ken Neill tagged an 11.5 inch tautog off Cape Henry. Neill didn’t think about that fish again for a long time, until it was recaptured on January 5, 2012 by Joe Stagnato, close to the location where it was tagged. The fish was at large for 2,826 days, only three months short of 8 years—setting a new record for the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program (VGFTP).

Neill is no stranger to catching big “togs.” In late February he caught one of his own tagged tautogs on the same wreck where he had tagged it nearly 7 years ago.  Originally tagged at 16.75 inches, the fish had grown to two feet.

“Ken’s recaptures are exciting because they help tell the story of these fish,” says VIMS Marine Recreation Specialist and Co-coordinator of the VGFTP, Susanna Musick. “We know that these fish haven’t moved far (or not at all in the case of the second tautog); we know how much they’ve grown, and we know that we’ve had success with tag retention in a structure-oriented species.”

Since 1995, the VGFTP has tagged ten species of recreationally important finfish with the help of volunteer anglers. A cooperative effort between the VASG Marine Advisory Program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and Saltwater Tournament at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), and it is funded by state saltwater license funds and VIMS.