SC Marine Game Fish Tagging Program


The goal of the Marine Game Fish Tagging Program is to help anglers understand the impacts their actions have on marine resource conservation and management and to actively promote the positive impacts of catch and release fishing.


Through participation in a volunteer tagging program recreational anglers will:

  1. Learn to practice effective techniques in the proper handling and release of marine game fish.
  2. Recognize the benefits of practicing catch and release through the short and long-term recovery of tagged marine fish.
  3. Develop an appreciation for South Carolina’s marine resources and actively promote the stewardship of those resources.
  4. Provide scientists with accurate data on recreational fishing activity that can be utilized in fishery management applications.

Program Summary:

The South Carolina Marine Game Fish Tagging Program (MGFTP) began in 1974 and was the first state-sponsored public tagging program on the East Coast. The program was initiated with a small contribution from the Charleston-based South Carolina Saltwater Sportfishing Association. Today, the program receives funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sport Fish Restoration Act and South Carolina Saltwater Recreational Fishing License Funds. The tagging program has proven to be a useful tool for promoting the conservation of marine game fish and increasing public resource awareness. In addition, the program has provided biologists with valuable data on movement and migration rates between stocks, growth rates, habitat utilization, and mortality associated with both fishing and natural events.

Since its inception, nearly 4,000 participants comprised of recreational anglers, charter boat captains, head boat captains, and commercial fishermen have tagged and released over 175,000 marine fish and over 18,000 of these have been reported as being recaptured. By far, red drum comprises the majority (about 50%) of the total fish tagged and released. The popularity of red drum as a target species for tag and release often leads to the misunderstanding that the MGFTP’s primary focus is on red drum, when in fact the program has always been a multi-species tagging program. Over the last 45 years, 149 different marine species have been tagged within the program. The program maintains and periodically modifies a list of target species in order to address the data needs of state and regional fisheries.

The Marine Game Fish Tagging Program utilizes two types of tags, each of which are proven to have good tag retention and ease of application. T-bar anchor tags are most suitable for smaller fish and are applied using the Amram Comfort Grip Standard Tagging Gun. The larger nylon dart tags are most suitable for larger fish and are applied using a provided tagging applicator. For a complete list of tag type and fish size criteria, please refer to the target species list. Both tag types are supplied to participating anglers along with blank datasheets.

Anglers who recapture a tagged fish are asked to report the recapture as soon as possible. The tag number, which is printed on the tag, should be recorded. If possible, take a photo of the tag number and release the fish with the tag intact so that it may potentially be recaptured multiple times. Along with the tag number, the angler should provide his or her name and address, the location and date of the recapture, and a measurement of the fish. Any other information regarding the condition of the fish is appreciated.

In appreciation for reporting a tag recapture, anglers can choose an item from the reward list on the tag recapture web form. Both the angler who tagged the fish and the angler who reported the recapture receive a history report for that fish. Included in the report is the date, approximate location, size, and angler who originally tagged the fish as well as the equivalent information on the recapture and any previous recaptures.