As Jerald Ault points out in Biology and Management of the World Tarpon and Bonefish fisheries, “despite a large and growing body of research investigating the biology of bonefishes, essential data on the life history and population dynamics … are in short supply.”
In order to rectify this situation, several institutions have undertaken tagging programs to help us understand the spatial distribution of bonefish. The University of Miami has implemented a tagging program in the Atlantic and Caribbean. The University of the Pacific has implemented theirs in Hawai’i. Anglers have played a critical role in both these programs by reporting tagged fish.
Tagging or marking animals has long been an accepted method for monitoring wildlife. Through tagging, scientists have gained a better understanding of the migration habits of great white sharks, they have located the wintering grounds and cold weather habits of the monarch butterfly, they have also identified the summer and winter ranges of polar bears. Of course, bird banding has attained an almost legendary status as a method for understanding avian species.
We can, in some cases, observe fish directly. Species such as trout and bluegill can be found, and observed, in shallow water. Mako sharks can be tempted up from the depths with a chum. But, for the most part, fish remain out of sight.
That is why it is important to report any tagged fish that you catch. Data from tagging programs provide us with a window into the world of fish. An observation, if you will. These observations help us to understand fish. Fisheries managers take these observations and use them to develop regulations and programs that can enhance our fish stocks for the future.
If you catch a fish that has been tagged, record the date, the tag number, the species, the length, the location, the time, and the weight. If you intend to keep the fish, make sure to comply with any procedures regarding tagged fish. In Nebraska, for example, the tag on paddlefish is inserted into its snout. Anglers are encouraged to return at least eight inches of the paddle. In Texas, anglers are encouraged to return the tags from any harvested black or red drum.
If you plan to release a tagged fish, note the data quickly and release the fish in a timely manner. This will reduce the chances for mortality.
And, finally, make sure to contact your local Department of Natural Resources to report the data.
For more Stewardship Tips visit www.RecycledFish.org