Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dolphins tagging is a MUST!

I'm a firm believer in the knowledge that can be obtained by tagging fish.

Some of that knowledge is scientific. For example, an amberjack I once caught and tagged off the South Carolina coast was recaptured months later off Florida.

And some of that knowledge is whimsical. Once, while tagging a spotted seatrout in Charleston, I realized I did not have anything on board to measure the fish.

Surveying the situation, I placed the fish on top of a 48-quart Igloo cooler and counted off the number of squares on the patterned plastic. I put that information on the card and mailed it in. Several days later, I received a query from Kay Davy, who headed DNR's tagging program at the time, asking me the size of the Igloo cooler because the squares are different on different-sized coolers.

Reflecting on those fish and others that I've tagged and had recaptured, I read with interest a couple of articles on tagging that were sent to me this week, one from the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and the other from the Cooperative Science Services Dolphin Tagging Research Project headed by former DNR biologist Don Hammond of James Island. Both pointed out the importance of recreational anglers assisting the scientific community in studies that will help manage different fish species.

The dolphin tagging study also pointed out the importance of anglers quickly filling out tag cards and returning them. A tag was recovered from a dolphin recaptured in the Bahamas, but the person who first tagged the fish failed to turn the card in. Hammond asks that participants in the dolphin tagging study check their tackle boxes and storage drawers for old cards and send them in promptly.

The latest newsletter from the dolphin study focuses on dolphin information off South Carolina.
Four pop- off archival tags have been deployed off the U. S. East Coast, including two off South Carolina which were attached to 30-pound bull dolphin. The first was attached in June 2005 by Capt. Howard Moseley aboard the boat, Tag Team. The second was deployed in June 2006 by the crew of Capt. Dick Rakovich's boat, Jenny Lynn.

The fish were tracked for 10 and 6 days, respectively. The tags are programmed to pop off after a certain period of time and send the information (including pressure and temperature) back to the home base via satellite.

While most people think of dolphin as a surface- dwelling fish, these two fish made dives to more than 400 feet and spent 15 percent of the daytime and 29 percent of the night at depths below 30 meters (98 feet). As many as 40 deep dives ( beyond 30 meters) were made in a single day.
Information about the study and the knowledge that has been gained is available at

DNR's tagging program has been going on since 1974. When it began volunteers were tagging almost every species found in South Carolina waters, but because of the overwhelming success the number of taggers is now limited and they are asked to tag only certain species where more data is needed.

Interestingly, the top tagger last year in the program was Gary DenBraven of Surfside Beach.
DenBraven tagged 254 fish, all from the Surfside Pier. DNR said most of the fish tagged by Den Braven were small coastal sharks such as Atlantic sharpnose and smooth dogfish.

DNR biologists expect his tagging to provide greater insights into the spawning activities of small coastal sharks.

If you catch a tagged fish, you can report it by phone at 1- 888 824-7472 or mail information to DNR Marine Gamefish Tagging Program, P.O. Box 129559, Charleston, S.C. 29422-2559. If a tagged fish is caught, fishermen are encouraged to record the tag number, measure and record the total length and re-release the fish with the tag in place. Report the date, location and species to DNR. The International Game Fish Association (IGFA) will hold an IGFA Certified Observer training class March 32 at the Marine Resources Division of the S.C Department of Natural Resources at Fort Johnson on James Island.

Applications are available at the IGFA website,

Applications must be completed and mailed or faxed (954-924 4220) to IGFA accompanied by a $150 fee. The fee covers the cost of the training class, an observer's handbook with species identification video and a oneyear membership in IGFA.

The class will train and certify experienced anglers, boat captains and crew members as observers for fishing tournaments around the world.

The one- day training period will begin at 9 a.m. with the following topics covered: program overview; species identification; IGFA saltwater fishing rules and regulations; safety at sea; and boating etiquette. At the end of the instruction, there will be a written exam which will take approximately 30- 45 minutes to complete.

Attendees will be notified of their certification within a week of the class. Any candidate who fils the exam will have further opportunities to retake the exam at no additional cost.

Quick "Facts about Dolphins"