SCDNR MGFTP March 2023 Newsletter

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South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

March Newsletter

Looking Back at 2022

table 1 v2 2022 mgftp summary

Table 1: 2022 summary of species tagged and recaptured by the MGFTP.

The Marine Game Fish Tagging Program (MGFTP) would like to thank everyone who tagged fish or reported recaptures in 2022. The success of the program and the value of our data is dependent on dedicated and conscientious anglers such as you. Thank you!

Looking back at 2022, 94 program volunteers tagged and released nearly 3,000 fish, and there were 619 reported recaptures from 523 anglers. Twenty different species of fish were tagged, and 10 different species were recaptured. Of the reported recaptures, nearly 90% of fish were reported as being re-released! One of the program objectives is to promote and recognize the benefits of catch and release fishing, so seeing so many tagged fish being re-released certainly puts a smile on my face. While it is not illegal to harvest tagged fish, I cannot stress the importance of re-releasing tagged fish with their tag intact. If that fish, or its tag, is removed, the entire effort and reasoning for tagging that fish becomes a dead end. This year we had a black drum that was recaptured for its 8th, 9th, and 10th time (Figure 1). It is truly amazing to see how many people can experience catching the same fish over multiple years!

10x recaptrued black drum

Figure 1: A black drum tagged in 2020 that has been recaptured 10 times.

While each program participant is imperative to the success of the program, there are three participants I would like to recognize for their outstanding tagging efforts. First off is David Fladd, who showed excellence in the geographic spreading of his tags. David was able to tag 212 fish in 20 different locations. The program would also like to recognize John Ward and John Townsend Cooper for being the anglers who tagged the greatest number of species; a total of 7 each. In recent years, the program has put a lot of focus on distributing tags both along the coast and in multiple species. With tagging efforts being focused mainly in the central part of the state (Figure 2), it is important that program strives to promote the geographic distribution of tags and recognize the taggers who go the extra step to spread their tags out. Each year, the program recognizes participants who tag thirty or more fish. I would like to thank those 20 individuals for their consistent tagging efforts last year. The list of conservation certificate recipients can be found here.

figure 2 v2 tagged and released by system mgftp 2022

Figure 2: Geographic distribution of fish tagged and recaptured by the MGFTP participants for 2022 from north to south.

Every year there are a handful of recapture events that really stand out to our staff and participants. This year was no exception, and I would like to share a few with you. In 2016, program participant, Daryl Johnson tagged a 14” red drum in the middle section of the Wando River. That fish remained “at large” for over 5 ½ years before being reported as recaptured in the Winyah Bay area this year.

daryl johnson 5 plus year red drum recap

Some of my favorite recaptures are from our pelagic species. This year we had a cobia recaptured at the Smith Point Lighthouse in the upper Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay. This fish was originally tagged by Mike Illig in 2019 at the Capers Reef. The fish was at large for over 3 years and grew 19 inches during this time. Unfortunately, this fish was harvested, and we will no longer be able to track its movements.

mike illig 3 year cobia recapture

It is also astonishing how much ground pelagic species can cover in a short amount of time. In June of 2022, a cobia was tagged by Champ Smith at the Charleston 60 Reef. In just 24 days, that same fish was recaptured offshore of Fernandina Beach, FL. It is unlikely this fish grew 3 inches during the 24-day period. The reported length discrepancy is most likely due to a measuring error from the recapturing angler. And again, I would like to stress the importance of releasing tagged fish with the tag intact. Unfortunately, this fish had the tag removed and we will not be able to continue to track its movements.

champ smith 24 day cobia recapture

In 2020, the MGFTP added striped bass to the list of target species, and since then we have had some outstanding recaptures. This year there was one that had me grinning ear to ear. In March 2022, Don Myers tagged a 22-inch striper near the I-526 bridge in the Cooper River. By May the same year, this fish had grown an inch and made its way to the top of the Cooper River, through the fish lift into Lake Moultrie, through Lake Marion into the Congaree River, and all the way into the Saluda River to be recaptured near the Riverbank Zoo in Columbia, SC.

long distance striper recap

There were four unique southern flounder recaptures in 2022. Three instances where fish were recaptured considerably far south of the area they were tagged, and one instance where a fish was recaptured to the north. The general trend we see for flounder that are tagged in SC is that they are recaptured within the same system they were tagged (i.e., flounder tagged in Charleston Harbor tend to be recaptured in Charleston Harbor). However, when flounder are recaptured outside of their systems of origin, it tends to be to the south. A trend that is supported by the unique flounder recaptures for 2022.

waller flounder recap to southRearden flounder recap southmikey flounder recap southMGFTP flounder recap north

I hope everyone enjoyed this snapshot into last year’s tagging efforts. A more detailed version will be available soon and I will link it into the upcoming newsletters. And again, I want to thank everyone for their participation in the program. We couldn’t do this without you! Tight lines!


Helpful Links and Resources

Reporting a tag recapture online:

Check out monthly and yearly tagging summaries

Fish Rules App

South Carolina Public Fishing Access

Bull Red Drum Fishing: Best Practices

Buy a Fishing License

Join our Coastal Events and Volunteer Opportunities Newsletter

Oyster Shell Recycling Locations


Monthly Drawing

Jason Marsik is the winner of this month's drawing. Congratulations, Jason! He will be receiving a DryCase waterproof backpack (printed with our tagging logo).

Drawing information: We hold a monthly drawing with a prize worth over $100! Every active participant will have one entry for that month. You are considered an active participant if you have tagged at least one fish during the month. The drawing takes place on the first of the month and is for the month that ended 28 to 31 days earlier. For example, the drawing that just occurred this March 2023 was for all active participants in the month of January 2023.This allows us to account for all initial tagging reports.

Thank you everyone for checking in,

Joey Coz

Program Coordinator

Marine Game Fish Tagging Program

Tag Reporting

Frequently Asked Questions

Tagging Program Homepage