Sunday, July 14, 2024

IDFG's 'Tag, You're It' tracks fish, data

by SARA CASSINELLI / Contributing Writer
| May 28, 2024 1:00 AM

Whether you are fishing at an urban pond, a wild river, or an alpine lake, that next fish you catch might have an orange tag, and Idaho Fish and Game needs your help reporting it.

Fisheries biologists attach orange-colored “t-bar anchor tags” to various fish species throughout the state to learn more about them. When anglers report tagged fish, biologists can learn how many fish in a specific area or population are caught by anglers.

“We’ve had some fish get caught the same day after we tagged them, while some fish might not get caught and reported until years later,” said Kevin Meyer, a fisheries research biologist for Idaho Fish and Game.

Tags can also describe fish migrations, and are used to compare survival and catch of different types of hatchery-raised fish after they are stocked. Each reported tag provides valuable information about angler catch, survival and abundance of certain species, which helps biologists manage fish populations for better fishing

“Tags are a crucial component of our research and management, aimed at making fishing better for Idaho’s anglers,” said Meyer. 

How to report a tagged fish

Each tag is labeled with a unique number that identifies the fish and how to report it online. If the tag is not a reward tag, you can decide whether to remove it from the fish or leave it and release the fish for the next angler to report another catch. 

If you plan to leave the tag, record the tag number or take a clear picture on your phone.  If you choose to clip the tag, use scissors or clippers to avoid yanking it out of the fish. 

Report tags online at or by calling 1-866-258-0338.

How to redeem a reward tag

Some fish have reward tags and carry a reward value of $25, $50, $100, or $200. Anglers will see REWARD printed on the tag and a dollar amount. 

Reward tags must be removed from the fish by clipping the tag with scissors or clippers and sent to our research office in Nampa. Please avoid yanking tags out of the fish. 

Mail the tag to the following address: Fish Tag Returns, 1414 E Locust Lane, Nampa, ID 83686.

Idaho Fish and Game’s Tag, You’re It Program was created in the mid-2000s using tags to estimate angler catch and harvest rates for fish species statewide. Research staff used varying levels of cash reward tags to figure out the reporting rate for non-reward tags. That was the missing piece of information that was necessary to use angler tag reports at a larger scale.

The program also won an American Fisheries Society National Sportfish Restoration award in 2012 and has been a mainstay in Idaho fisheries management ever since.

Sara Cassinelli is a public information officer with the Idaho Department of Fish & Game.