we are frequently surprised by how far some fish go and where they are later caught. During a recent paddlefish study, a fish was tagged at the mouth of the Osage River near Jefferson City. Nearly two years later, that fish was recaptured in a floodplain lake in Arkansas. The fish had traveled more than 700 miles down the Missouri and Mississippi rivers! We would have never known that if the fish hadn’t been tagged, and subsequently reported.
What to Do if You Catch a Tagged Fish
The most important thing that you, as an angler, can do to help us is to report the tag in a timely manner. The information that you provide will be used to help us better manage both local and statewide fisheries. If too many people fail to report tags, we may come to the wrong conclusions on the best way to manage these fisheries.
Another reason to report tagged fish is that some tags include a reward. Tag rewards vary by project and may expire over time. So don’t delay, report today! While it would be great if no one needed a reward for reporting a tagged fish, history has proven that rewards increase tag reporting. Even now, you may be thinking about a tag or two that may be lying in your tackle box. It’s time to dig it out and send it in. Even old information can be useful.
To report a tagged fish, look for a phone number or address on the tag. The print may be small, so a magnifying glass may be needed. Write down any information you see on the tag. There are a lot of biologists, both within and outside of Missouri, who are tagging fish. The information on the tag will help us identify who tagged the fish.
Call or write to the contact on the tag. In order to claim a reward, we MUST have the tag. In many cases, once we have processed the tag, we can send it back to you with information about that particular fish. If the tag does not say “reward” it likely does not include one. However, it is still useful to have the information. In those cases, leave the tag attached to the fish but write down the number and the contact information, then report the tag as soon as you can. By leaving the tag on the fish when you catch-and release it, you make it possible for us to gain additional information from it in the future.
When you submit a tag for a reward, include your mailing address, when and where you caught the fish, the length and whether or not you kept the fish. It is okay if you don’t remember all of the details. Provide as much information as you can.
If you can’t read the information on the tag, contact your local Missouri Department of Conservation office. Based on the information you provide, we may be able to identify who used the tag and a reward may still be available.
While not everyone will catch a tagged fish, many of you will. It is a special experience when you get to learn how you have contributed to the study of fish populations in Missouri.
And with that, there is just one more thing to say … Tag! You’re it! We’ll see you on the water!