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The tag & release programs The Billfish Foundation’s Tag & Release Program, established in 1990, is one of the largest billfish databases in the world due to the assistance of captains,anglers, and mates worldwide. Without the help of the sportfishing community this work would not be possible and vital data such as estimating billfish age, growth, movements, distribution and stock structure would never be gathered. The tags themselves (Fig. 1) are uniquely designed:

Fig. 1


Tag Streamer with Clear Plastic Coat Hydroscopic Nylon Double-barb Dart Tag Head




Monofilment Connection

Tag ID #

•• TBF’s tag heads are made from surgical-grade hydroscopic nylon and anchors the tag to the fish. •• TBF’s tag streamer has a clear plastic covering to prevent the tag from being destroyed by marine growth and the narrow shape reduces drag. •• The steel applicator (Fig. 2) used to deploy the tag, allows for deeper placement of the nylon dart anchor (tag head) and encourage complete healing of the tag wound. •• For smaller fish such as sailfish, the length of the applicator will need to be adjusted to ensure safe tag placement.

Tag Stick

Tag Stick Head

Fig. 2

Stainless Steel Applicator

Please note that older tag sticks use shorter applicators than the new tags sticks. Be sure you are using the appropriate sized applicator for your tag stick. For spearfish and Atlantic sailfish, a cork placed on the applicator can minimize the possible risk of damage potentially caused by long applicators.

Fig. 3

John D. Fishhead 211 Main Street Fort Lauderdale


(954) 555-1234



(954) 555-4321

tagging procedures •• Legibly complete the yellow Tag Issue Report Card (FIG. 3) and return it to TBF. These cards provide a way for TBF to track our tags and contact the person who was issued the tags. This information is critical and not having original tag data causes important information to be lost. Tip: Use a mailing label! •• To prepare the tag stick for tagging, simply slide the nylon head over the pointed end of the stainless steel applicator and push the tag streamer into the notch on the stopper assembly. (Fig. 4 ) Tip: You may also wish to wrap a rubber band around the tag stick head and tuck the streamer under the band for extra security. •• Bring the billfish safely alongside the boat and continue to idle the boat forward to allow for easier tagging. Once tagged, make sure the fish is properly revived before it is released. TIP: Never attempt to tag a jumping or thrashing fish and never remove the fish from the water. This can be not only dangerous for the health of the billfish, but for you too!

Fig. 4

Fig. 5


It is vital that the tag be placed in the dorsal muscle well behind the head and gill plates, above the lateral line and away from all vital organs (Fig. 5). It is not necessary to use a great deal of force to insert the tag. A firm, well-aimed stroke is best. Place the applicator against the fish’s flank and push, inserting the tag until the stopper assembly is pressed against the fish. You can also watch our tagging instructional video on our YouTube channel at

NEVER remove the fish from the water. This can result in fatal damage for two reasons: Photo courtesy of Stephen Gegenheimer

1. Excess rubbing and drying can result in the loss of the protective coating found on the surface of the fish. Without this protective covering, the fish becomes susceptible to bacterial infections and parasites. 2. A dditionally, the skeleton of a billfish is designed for the buoyant conditions of the ocean. Removing the fish from the water, even onto the gunnel, causes the skeleton to come under the full strain of gravity, and may damage the skeleton and internal organs. Most importantly, it is illegal to remove fish from water, according to National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) regulations.

rEPORTING THE RELEASE •• After tagging, the fish should be released by removing the hook or cutting the leader as close to the hook as possible. If the fish is exhausted, revive it by towing it slowly forward before release. Tip - This could take up to 20 or 30 minutes, depending on the length and condition of the fish. •• It is important to completely and legibly fill out the Tag Data Report card that accompanies each tag and return it to TBF (Fig. 6) or to go online to our new online entry system ( Make sure to report the release date, species of fish and the location (latitude & longitude) of its release and to measure. Measure or estimate the lower jaw to fork length LJFL (Fig. 5) and estimate the weight as accurately as possible. A Release Ruler© can help you determine both length and weigh estimates.

Fig. 6

•• Please report your tags promptly by simply dropping your prepaid, self-addressed report card in the mail or by going online and “reporting your catch” by going online to •• If the card is not filled out completely and legibly before being returned to TBF, the information on your tagged fish will not be able to provide scientific value for billfish conservation.

REPORTING A RECAPTURE • • Returning tag recapture information is extremely important. Without recapture information, the scientific loop is not complete. Tags previously placed on billfish are not always easy to find because various forms of marine growth often attach to exposed portions of the tag, making the streamer difficult to recognize. Therefore, you should carefully examine all billfish brought to the boat before tagging and releasing it. If you can not see the tag number due to the marine growth, please cut the plastic covering to revel the orange tag number. (FIG. 7) •• To re-release a tagged fish, clip the monofilament of the original tag and, if possible, retag with a new tag. Record the date and location of the recapture as well as an estimate of the fish’s length and weight and report the recapture by contacting via phone (800 438-8247, or email ( TBF with the information. Remember the success of this program rests in the hands of all of us. TBF appreciates your support. A TBF recapture shirt and recapture certificate will be sent to the original tagging captain, angler and mate and the recapture captain, angler and mate.


Closeup of Tag ID #

tbf ANNUAL TAG & RELEASE COMPETITION You can participate in TBF’s Annual Tag & Release Competition by becoming a member of TBF and promptly turning in your Tagging Data Report cards. The competition runs from November 1ST through October 31ST of the following year.

The Billfish Foundation Annual Tag & Release Competitions Official Rules Competition Dates: November 1 - October 31of the following year. Deadline: All Tagging Data Report and Release Notification Cards must be received by TBF no later than November 15. Eligibility: Anglers, captains and mates MUST be a current TBF member to receive an award based on their submitted Tagging Data Report and Release Notification Cards. Regardless of membership, all data from every card is valuable for billfish research. You can check your membership status or join TBF by calling (954) 938-0150 ext. 106. If you have registered with our online tag and release database, you can see if your membership is current in your profile page and join or renew at Important Note: Cards should be submitted to TBF as soon as possible or entered online at after tagging or releasing a fish. If you wait until the end of the competition year to send your cards, you run the risk of not having your cards reach TBF by the deadline.

Categories TAGGING - Captains and Anglers Awards will be presented to those who tag the most billfish within each species and ocean category after having met the 5 fish minimum. release - Captains and Anglers Awards will be presented to those who release, without tagging, the most billfish within each species category after having met 5 fish minimum. PLEASE NOTE: For the categories at right, fish that are tagged and released are NOT counted in the Release Category. These fish are only counted in the Tagging Category.





Species Blue Marlin Sailfish Spearfish Swordfish White Marlin Black Marlin Blue Marlin Sailfish Spearfish Striped Marlin Swordfish Black Marlin Blue Marlin Sailfish Spearfish Striped Marlin Swordfish

Additional awards Youth

Awards will be presented to youth anglers who tag and/or release the most billfish of any species within each age category after having met the minimum of 3 fish. Categories include: ages 8 & younger, 9-10, 11-12, 13-15 and 16-17. (Please note: To enter the competition all youth anglers must write in their date of birth next to their name or in the space provided.) Youth anglers must be active TBF members to win.


Awards will be presented to the female anglers who tagged and released the most billfish.


TBF recognizes the valuable contribution of mates in both the release and tagging of billfish through our Mate Recognition Program, a cumulative, on-going program that awards mates with a pair of Costa Sunglasses and a plaque for his or her level of achievement. Mate awards will be given on a yearly basis for the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Anglers, Captains, and mates can now enter their billfish data online at (Please note: Cards still must be submitted by the deadline to count for the competition year. Attention all anglers, mates and captains: Please send TBF any photos you have of your billfish in the water or jumping. Great tagging photos will be appreciated.

The Billfish foundaTion’s

Interactive Tag & Release Online Database Go to: today to start easily entering your data!

• Enter your own data • User friendly interactive map • Explore historical data • Forcasting ability with TBF partner Buoyweather • View all your tag & release data • Share your catches on

Photo courtesy of Antonio “Tuba” Amaral

To order tagging equipment call 800-438-8247 or 954-938-0150 or order online at Join, renew, gift or donate at The Billfish Foundation • 5100 N. Federal Hwy, #200 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308 • Phone: 800-438-8247

Tagging pamphlet jm 7 x 9 web  

Informational booklet for The Billfish Foundation's Tag & Release program.

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