Welcoming a New ‘Class’ of Volunteer Taggers

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Welcoming a New ‘Class’ of Volunteer Taggers

Fish tagger training

A seasoned tagger shows new volunteers how to tag a fish. ©Mark Pearson

Seasoned tagger Donnie Smith (right) shows new volunteers how to go online to report their tagged fish. ©Mark Pearson

Seasoned tagger Donnie Smith (right) shows new volunteers how to go online to report their tagged fish. ©Mark Pearson

By Susanna Musick

The Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program (VGFTP) trained 16 new volunteer taggers on Tuesday March 27 at VIMS. The new “class” of volunteers came from as close as Gloucester and as far away as the Elizabeth City, N.C. VGFTP coordinators Susanna Musick (VIMS) and Lewis Gillingham (VMRC) kicked off the evening by introducing the new taggers to the program, which has been collecting data on recreational fishes since 1995.

Then the new taggers moved on to the main event: Practicing using a variety of tags and applicators on freshly caught fish and learning how to measure and record their data. The hands-on activities were lead by seasoned taggers Jori Head, Sheldon Avery, and Donnie Smith. Allison Watts (VMRC) also helped train taggers in recording data.

Fish tagger training

Sheldon Avery (left) shows new volunteers how to tag a fish. ©Mark Pearson

“We’re very lucky to have such a great group of experienced volunteers offer their expertise and tips to this new “class” of taggers,” said Musick, also of the Virginia Sea Grant Marine Extension Program at VIMS. “The anglers who participate in the tagging program are special because they are willing to take time out of fishing to tag and release fish, and record and report data.  This dedication has led to a great source of data for management of recreationally important fishes.”

The VGFTP provides important information to the angling community and fisheries managers about the value of Virginia’s marine recreational fisheries, including the benefits of effective catch and release fishing.

Since 1995, the VGFTP has tagged recreationally important finfish with the help of volunteer anglers. A cooperative effort between the Marine Advisory Program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and Saltwater Tournament at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), the program’s funding is from state saltwater license funds and VIMS.