Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program

  • VGFTP Top Taggers 2021   The top taggers in the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program for 2021 are (L-R): Brian Watkins, Troy Watkins, David Griffith, David Gladysiewicz, Ken Neill, Alex Perez, A.J. Perez, and Ed Shepherd.   Photo Credit: Susanna Musick/VIMS
  • 2021 Top Tagger
    VGFTP Top Tagger 2021   The Tog Tagger for 2021 was Ed Shepherd of Yorktown, who tagged more than 6,000 fish in 2021.   Photo Credit: Susanna Musick/VIMS
  • Top Tagger Ed Sheppard
    Top Tagger 2020 Ed Sheppard   The Top Tagger in 2020 was Ed Shepherd, who has now tagged more than 83,000 fishes during his time in the VGFTP program.   Photo credit: Susanna Musick/VIMS.
  • Top Taggers 2018
    VGFTP Top Taggers 2018   VGFTP 2018 top taggers were recognized on February 22 at Bass Pro Shops in Hampton, VA. Top row from L to R: Sheldon Arey, Ed Shepherd, Lewis Gillingham. Bottom row from L to R: David Griffith, Charlie Church, Cashin Prutsman.   Photo Credit: Wendy Zach
  • Top Taggers 2017
    VGFTP Top Taggers 2017   VGFTP 2017 top taggers were recognized on February 16 at Bass Pro Shop in Hampton, VA. From L to R: Lewis Gillingham (VMRC), Ed Shepherd, John Knight, Sheldon Arey, Wes Blow, Trevor Embry, Tom Embry, Susanna Musick (VIMS).  
  • Volunteer anglers
    Volunteer anglers   The Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program is comprised of recreational anglers who volunteer their time and effort to tag and release their fish catch.   Photo Credit: Donnie Smith
  • Tagged Fish
    Tagged Fish   Participants in the annual VGFTP workshop received training for tagging fish as fast as possible to ensure a speedy release.   Photo Credit: Erin Fryer
  • Top Taggers
    VGFTP Top Taggers 2012   Some of the top taggers of 2012 are pictured with VGFTP officials: Front, L-R: Susanna Musick (VIMS), Carl Stover, Jay Duell, Rob Choi, and Lewis Gillingham (VMRC); Rear, L-R: Ed Shepherd, Jim Robinson, Sheldon Arey, and Ed Lawrence.   Photo by Rob Choi
  • Top taggers 2011
    VGFTP Top Taggers 2011   Some of the top taggers of 2011 came to Bass Pro Shop to be recognized for their efforts. Front, L-R: Donnie Smith, Jim Robinson, Carl Stover; Back, L-R: Susanna Musick, Wayne Rowe, Sheldon Arey, Ed Shepherd, and Lewis Gillingham.   Photo Credit: William Sweatt/VASG
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About the VGFTP

The Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program (VGFTP) is a cooperative project of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). Since 1995, the overall goal of the program has been to train and maintain an experienced group of recreational anglers who volunteer their time to tag and release ten target species: black drum, black sea bass, cobia, summer flounder, red drum, sheepshead, spadefish, speckled trout, tautog and grey triggerfish. Data on tagged and recaptured fish are summarized in annual reports that are accessible below (tag-recapture records appear in report Appendices) and shared with fishery resource managers.

The VGFTP is primarily funded with revenues from Virginia's saltwater recreational fishing license with matching funds from VIMS

Program Goals

The VGFTP is designed to:

  • Develop a quality tagging program using recreational anglers to enhance data-collection efforts for specific species of fish (that aren’t already being tagged in VA by other research programs);
  • Educate anglers about the need, benefits, limitations, and operation of tagging programs and other information-gathering efforts directed toward saltwater finfish, including the proper methods for reporting the recapture of tagged fish; and,
  • Reinforce efforts to educate anglers about the benefits and proper techniques for catching, handling, releasing, and tagging fish.
Program Operations

Participation is limited to 200 anglers, and anglers are requested to renew their registration each year. New spaces are filled on a first-come, first-serve basis from the waiting list, which anglers can join at any time by emailing program managers (at VIMS: [[v|susanna]]). A mandatory, hands-on training workshop is held in the spring, and new anglers are required to attend. The workshop sessions teach proper fish-handling techniques and tagging techniques, procedures for data recording, and the goals and philosophy of the VGFTP. Anglers also practice inserting tags in fresh fish to get comfortable with the tagging process before going into the field. The tagging workshop provides an excellent learning opportunity for new taggers to meet experienced taggers (instructors), meet other volunteers, and gain confidence in their skills. VGFTP volunteer taggers are able to learn the history of the fish they tag and release each time their fish is recaptured.

Since 1995, VGFTP data use has grown and fishery managers use our data for VMRC compliance reports and regional stock assessments. VGFTP can provide a novel source of data for juvenile size indices, migratory patterns, and habitat use. For more information about VGFTP please contact the VGFTP Principal Investigator, Susanna Musick, [[v|susanna]].