The Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program (VGFTP) celebrated the achievements of its top volunteers with the help of Bass Pro Shops in Hampton Friday night.
Susanna Musick, marine recreation specialist and coordinator of the VGFTP at VIMS, says “Yorktown angler Ed Shepherd hoisted the Top Tagger trophy again this year, after tagging more than 6,000 fishes in 2021.” The runner-up was Scott Vinson of Williamsburg. Shepherd and Vinson also placed one-two in overall recaptures.
In addition to honoring individuals for tagging the highest number of each of the program's 10 targeted species, program administrators introduced three special awards. Ken Neill of Seaford and Danny Noland of Hopewell were recognized as the longest-standing volunteers, with 26 years of service each. Rob Collins was recognized for the most species tagged—all 10, while Bryan Lewis of Bealeton and Scott Vinson were recognized for their use of experimental tags. Award winners hailed from all over Virginia and the Eastern Shore.
Data collected by the VGFTP helps anglers and managers learn more about fish migration, growth and habitat use. In 2021, VGFTP volunteers tagged more than 19,173 fishes and to date have recorded 1,570 recaptures.
The Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program uses state saltwater license funds to train a cadre of 200 volunteer anglers to gather data on year-to-year abundance, habitat use, and seasonal migration patterns for selected species of recreationally popular marine fishes. Established in 1995, it is a cooperative effort between the Marine Advisory Program at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the Virginia Saltwater Tournament at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC).
Through 2022, the program has maintained a 27-year database of records for tagged and recaptured fish. The database currently includes 385,206 tag records and 38,159 recapture records, with those numbers increasing almost daily. The program has documented fishing efforts at more than 900 locations in Virginia waters.