North Carolina Sea Grant
Hook, Line & Science

Hook, Line & Science

March 8, 2021 | Dave Shaw

Catch. Cut. Report. And then collect your reward.

Why Tag Fish?

Fish tagging programs have become an important tool in the management and assessment of fish populations. When conducted properly, tagging can provide a wealth of information about movement patterns, habitats, and mortality rates. These insights are essential for allowing fisheries biologists to assess management strategies and to set catch limits or develop other species protection measures.

Since the late 1970s, the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries (NCDMF) has tagged over 350,000 fish through a variety of programs. In 2014, the current multispecies tagging program brought together existing tagging studies under one program to standardize methodologies and facilitate the addition of tagging for new species. Currently, the NCDMF tags five fish species: striped bass, red drum, spotted seatrout, southern flounder and cobia. They release over 15,000 tagged fish each year in all coastal inland waters, from the Albemarle Sound to the Cape Fear River, and in nearshore coastal waters for cobia.

How to Participate: CATCH a Tagged Fish, CUT off the Tag, and REPORT It

Fishermen who catch a fish with a tag (or even two tags), are eligible to receive a reward packet containing a letter with information about the fish, a personalized certificate, and a gift. Fishermen should check both sides of each fish, because it may have two tags, which means a double reward.

People who catch tagged fish should cut off the tags and record the following information: species, tag number, date, location captured (waterbody and nearest landmark or latitude/longitude), length (total or fork length), fate of the fish (kept, released with or without tag, etc.), and the gear used for capture. This catch information is vital to the success of the program.

Report the tag by phone to 1-800-682-2632 or online at

The NCDMF uses two tag colors: yellow and red. Anglers who catch a fish with a yellow tag marked “NCDMF” are eligible to receive $5, a hat, a fish towel, or a fish pin.

Those who catch a fish with a red tag marked “NCDMF” and “$100 REWARD” are eligible for a $100 reward.

To receive the $100 reward, in addition to reporting the red tag by phone or online, you should cut off the tag and return it to:

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries
P.O. Box 769
Morehead City, NC 28557

Fishermen can also submit pictures of themselves with their tagged fish to the NCDMF at

For more information about the North Carolina Multi-Species Tagging Program, visit

And remember: CATCH, CUT, and REPORT.

Summary compiled by Trevor Scheffel,
Marine Fisheries Biologist,
Division of Marine Fisheries

Photo: spotted seatrout, courtesy of NCDENR

The text from Hook, Line & Science is available to reprint and republish, but only in its entirety and with this attribution: Hook, Line & Science, courtesy of Scott Baker and Sara Mirabilio, North Carolina Sea Grant.

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