Keep an eye out for tagged fish

Although it certainly doesn’t happen every day, if you fish enough, chances are you’ll eventually catch a tagged fish.
The tags—typically small yellow plastic pieces that are attached to the dorsal fin area of the fish—are used by natural resource agencies to measure the health and age structure of a fishery, among other things.
Around home, I’ve caught tagged bass on Lake of the Woods and Rainy Lake. I also have caught a couple of tagged lake trout on Lake of the Woods.
In our part of the world, I’m not aware of the Ministry of Natural Resources tagging fish species other than lake trout or bass, but I have heard of lake sturgeon and walleye that were tagged by the Minnesota DNR being caught by Canadian anglers.
This week, I’m back on the road with my buddy, Dave Bennett, getting ready for the annual Sturgeon Bay Open bass tournament on Lake Michigan, which is set to kick-off Friday.
It is a large team tournament much like our big events (the Kenora Bass International and the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship).
A few days ago while we were pre-fishing, I caught the biggest smallmouth of my life—a 7.60-pound monster! It was 22.75 inches long and it actually had a tag in it.
The tag was somewhat old—evident by all the green slime that coated it. But I was able to scratch it off with my thumb to record the number, which I did so I can share information about the fish with the Wisconsin DNR.
I actually ran into one of the Lake Michigan biologists the same day that I caught the fish, so he gave me a card with instructions to e-mail him the location that I caught the fish, as well as its length and weight.
At the time of writing this column, I had not heard back from him. But he let me know that he will share the age of the fish and the location that it was tagged with me.
I can’t wait to hear what he has to say!
When natural resources’ biologists tag these fish, they take a scale sample, which they can use to determine its age. They also measure and weigh them to get an idea of how fast the fish grow in a specific body of water.
If they are caught later by an angler, the information provided can be used to learn more about the fish and the fishery, in general.
It is important if you catch a tagged fish that you do not remove the tag from its dorsal fin area.
As well, if you must scratch off the slime from the tag, do so gently so you don’t accidentally erase the tag numbers.
While you’re admiring the fish you catch this season, be sure to keep an eye out for any that might have a tag in them.
If you do, record the number and try to at least measure the fish, so you can share this information with natural resources’ folks who are more than happy to share information about the fish in return.