HomeLearn about tagging programWhat to do if you catch a tagged fishHow to get involvedIdentify a tagGet your program certified


Reporting the tagged fish you catch is one of the easiest and best ways to get involved in tagging programs. A tagging program doesn't tell us anything if there's no recapture information! Plus, when you report a tag, many programs will send you information about that fish, such as when and where it was tagged. Some programs even offer a reward for reporting tags.

The tag will have some kind of contact information (like a phone number or an address) printed on it, along with the tag number. You should contact the agency that runs the program to report a tag. If you can't read the tag or don't have the information, you can use our Tag Identification Tool to learn more about the program that might have put that tag out.

You can report a tagged fish whether you keep it, discard it dead, or release it alive. Here are some tips for providing the best information when you report a tag.

  • Be alert! Tags are designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, so they don't change the fish's behavior. That means that you might not see one if you're not looking for it.

  • Get the tag number. You don't have to remove the tag if you're going to release the fish alive, just write down the tag number and the agency name or contact number. If you're not prepared to write that information down, you can cut the tag off (don't pull it out!). Some tags have their number and contact information printed on them twice, so that you can snip off the top half and leave the rest of the tag for the next angler that catches it.

  • Measure the fish. A careful measurement is very useful to scientists. When you measure your fish, try to use one of the standard methods described below. Don't pull a tape measure over the fish; instead lay the fish down on top of a ruler or tape measure. All measurements should start at the tip of the snout, but where to end depends on what type of measurement you're taking. It doesn't matter which one you choose, but remember to include the type of measurement when you report the tag. You can measure the fish even if you're planning to release it alive. Just handle it gently, with wet hands or wet gloves, and get it back in the water as quickly as possible.

Standard length: From the tip of the snout to the end of the fleshy part of the tail (the caudal peduncle)

Fork length: From the tip of the
snout to the fork of the tail

Total length: From the tip of the
snout to the end of tail fin, with
the lobes of the tail squeezed together

  • More information is always better, but any information is better than none!
    Different programs will want to know different things about the fish you release, depending on what the goals of the program are, but here are some common details you can report:
    • Species
    • Date and location of capture
    • Length and type of measurement (standard, total, fork)
    • What you did with the fish (kept it, released it alive, discarded it dead, etc.)
    • What you did with the tag (removed it or left it on the fish)

Some programs are interested in the condition of the fish, what type of gear you used, and other information, but even just providing the date and location of where you caught that fish tells scientists a lot.


For questions about fish tagging in freshwater, contact your state agency.
For additional information about tagging in marine waters contact Jeff Kipp at jkipp@asmfc.org

Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission