Add a Pencil to Your Vest
(Or TAG-You're It)
by Judy Boston, MSFF Conservation Director
Feb. 28, 2003 - You have an opportunity to assist the Arkansas
Game & Fish Commission (AGFC) trout biologists gather important
data over time concerning the effectiveness of catch-&-release
(C&R) areas on Arkansas trout waters. The AGFC trout biologists
in the AGFC Trout Program, headed by Darrell Bowman,
have begun new tagging studies in the Arkansas tailwaters (the
part of a river below a dam) for all the C&R areas. The information
below will tell you what to do if you catch a trout with what
looks like a piece of colored spaghetti attached to its back
at the base of its dorsal fin. The tag may or may not have a
coating of algae growth. Hint: Do not remove the tag
from trout you release but do call the Trout Program with
information from all tagged trout you catch.
From time-to-time electrofishing
sampling is done in an area to provide a "snap-shot"
view of the trout population at the time of the sample. This
type of sampling was done in February at Winkley Shoals (Little
Red River) in order to compare data (size, diversity, and abundance)
before and after the habitat restoration there. While this data
is valuable, and especially so when there is a variable factor-such
as habitat restoration-"snap-shot" types of electrofishing
sampling do not always tell the biologists why the trout populations
look the way they do at the time.
Fish tagging studies are a better way for
the biologists to understand the dynamics of trout populations.
Tagging studies to gather data on trout growth rates, mortality
rates, trout migration, and angler exploitation rates will shed
a better light on the trout populations and how regulations affect
them. Tagging studies require more effort on the part of AGFC
personnel because individual trout within the trout population
at the time of tagging are being tracked rather than a nebulous
and changing picture of an area's trout population.
An analogy of the differences in "snap-shot"
electrofishing sampling versus ongoing tagging studies would
be the differences in assessing a school's senior class population
at yearly intervals versus assessing one year's senior class
population and then determining what happened to each individual
student throughout the year and in subsequent years. Both give
useful information, but determining the fate of individuals within
a population over time gives a different set of information than
simply the makeup of a changing population at the same location.
AGFC personnel use nighttime electrofishing
to catch, identify the species, measure to the nearest millimeter,
weigh to the nearest gram, tag, and release 1,000 trout from
each C&R area. The tags used in this study are colored
(tan, yellow, orange, etc.) spaghetti type tags about 1.5 or
2-inches long and are inserted into the trout's back just
below the dorsal fin. The tags each have an individual tracking
number as well as the phone number of the Trout Program office.
Once all the C&R areas each have their 1,000 trout tagged,
AGFC can periodically recapture them to record the ongoing species/length/weight
data and then re-release the tagged trout. Anglers can report
where and when these trout are caught. Over time, meaningful
growth rates, migration and mortality rates can be determined
for these tagged trout because each trout will have an individual
During the last quarter of 2002, tagging
was completed for 1,000 trout from the Beaver Tailwater, 1,000
trout from the Dunham/Mossy Shoals (Little Red River), and 1,000
trout from the Sylamore (White River) C&R areas. Work was
suspended during the spawn to avoid any negative impacts to spawning
trout. However, this spring tagging work will resume on the Bull
Shoals Tailwater (White River) for the Bull Shoals, Rim Shoals,
and Monkey Island (downstream from Red's Landing) C&R areas,
as well as the Norfork Tailwaters C&R area. Additionally,
and in order to collect initial baseline information, trout tagging
will be done in the Spring River between Dam 3 downstream to
Bayou Access (not currently a C&R area).
TAG-"You're It"-What to Do
The AGFC Trout Program's Trout
Biologist, Darrell Bowman, and his assistant trout biologists,
Stan Todd and Jeff Williams, ask that you assist
as anglers by treating any tagged trout you catch the same way
you would treat any other trout you catch, within AGFC regulations
for trout. It is expected that most of the tagged trout will
be caught and then released in the C&R areas. However, some
to many trout will migrate out of the C&R areas and then
may be either harvested or released. The tags will appear as
if a colored piece of spaghetti (tan, yellow, orange, etc.) is
coming from the base of the dorsal fin on top of the trout's
back and may or may not be covered in algae.
Please do not remove the tag from a
released trout. If you catch a
tagged trout in a C&R area, release the trout with the tag
in place. If you catch a tagged trout outside a C&R area,
leave the tag in place if you release it. Never cut the tag
off a released trout. However, if possible, write down the
tag's tracking number and the Trout Program's phone number to
call. It is OK to keep (harvest) a tagged trout if done within
the context of fishing regulations (i.e. from unregulated
water within the creel limits).
Then at your convenience, please call the
phone number on the tag to report the tag number, when
you caught it, where you caught it, and whether it was
kept or released. You may also be asked to report what
it was caught on as that is interesting info but not necessarily
a part of the study.
It is better to release a tagged trout without reporting the
information than to cut the tag off just to retain the tag's
number to report. Again, please do not remove the tag from
a trout you release. Just carry a pencil and paper to record
This is not a "reward" program.
There is no bounty placed on the tags. The only reward you will
receive is the knowledge that you are a responsible angler helping
the AGFC Trout Program. The data from the tagging studies will
provide the Trout Program information to evaluate the effectiveness
of C&R areas in providing increased catch rates and/or larger
Add a pencil and paper to your fishing gear.
Record the tag's tracking number if you catch a tagged trout.
Leave the tag in a released trout.
If you keep a trout (outside the
C&R areas and within the regulations, of course), retain
the tag's information.
Call the Trout Program (phone number on the tag) to report:
1. Tracking number of the tag
2. Date the trout was caught
3. Where caught
4. Whether released or kept
5. (Optional) What caught it-fly, jig, spinner, etc.
Spread the word-DON'T REMOVE THE TAG;
REPORT THE INFO.
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