Instructions For Tagging ‘ō‘io

These are the preferred methods and practices for using dart tags to tag fish. Following the proper procedures will assure the greatest survivability of your fish upon release. Releasing strong, healthy fish is essential for the success of any tagging program.

To help increase survival rates hooks should be quickly removed. We recommend using circle barbless hooks, as they are very effective at minimizing damage to the fish and other sea life.

Landing the Fish
To minimize stress of the fish, your gear should first be considered. Choose fishing tackle to match conditions and the target size of fish. Fish should be able to be landed quickly. However, if you must fight the fish give it plenty of freedom in the line until their head can be lifted slightly above water. Then keep the fish in the water as much as possible while unhooking.

Fighting the fish too quickly or forcefully will exhaust the fish and make it vulnerable to predators after release. If you notice the fish cannot swim properly (if it nose dives or roles over), revive the fish until it can swim upright. If it has suffered noticeably or has been damaged during capture, do not waste time tagging it. When fish cannot be released, please consider keeping it on ice and donating the head and guts so the fish can be used in a diet and growth study (please call 735-8290)

Handling the Fish
Scales and slime are a fish’s primary defense against infection. Therefore, minimizing handling time will help the fish stay healthy. The best way to release a bonefish is to keep the fish in the water and remove the hook using pliers without ever touching the fish. While handling the fish to attach the tag, gently support the fish underneath its head and belly by using your clean, wet hands. Take care to not touch the gills; it can affect the fish’s ability to breathe. Using nets, mechanical lip grippers, and wet cloths to restrain the fish can cause injury and should be avoided. It is also highly advised to not keep the fish out of water for more than 15 seconds.

Measuring and Weighing the Fish
While keeping the fish in the water and using wet hands, measure the fork length (from the tip of the nose to the fork of the tail fin) to the nearest half inch. If you weigh the fish with lip gripping devices, avoid holding the bonefish vertically and only by the grips. If lip gripping devices are used the fish should be secured in a sling and then use the grips to suspend the sling.

Loading the Applicator
Load tag in applicator with only the barb exposed at the pointed end. A preloaded applicator will speed up the tagging process.

Important: the tip of the applicator should always be kept spiked on a cork or capped with rubber tubing when not in use to prevent damage to the needle and injury to yourself.

If the tag does not slide easily out of the applicator, then it is probably clogged with debris. This should be rectified to avoid a “hung-up” tag.

Loosely fitting tags can be secured by making a slight bend in the tag before loading.

After use, wash the applicator with clean water.

‘O‘io have tough skin, always. Always keep the tip of the applicator sharp.

Insertion of Tags Into Fish
Check the location of the dart head to be sure it is firmly seated in the applicator before engaging in actual tagging operations.

  1. Pick a spot high on the back just below the dorsal fin to avoid hitting the backbone. If necessary, remove a scale with the applicator point. Avoid placing the tag deeply into muscle.
  2. Hold the loaded applicator with the tip facing forward at the point of insertion. Turn needle so barb is on the fish side.
  3. Insert the needle at a 45 degree angle until the barb is beyond the midline of the fish. A slight “click” can sometimes be felt as the barb slides over the axial bone and locks behind it.
  4. Pause for a second and withdraw the needle smoothly. A gentle tug with your fingers will help “set” the tag.

Releasing the Fish
The fish should be gently released. If necessary, the fish can be revived by moving it forward through the water. Fish showing undue stress, damage or an inability to swim should not be released. Stressed fish are six times more likely to be attacked by predators. When predators are observed in the area and are attracted by your fishing activity, consider moving the fish to another area.

Recording Data
Record the date, tag number, species, fork length, time, and location where the fish was caught. Make sure to record this data soon after the fish is released to be sure that the information is recorded accurately. A plastic “plexiglass” slate with a rough-up surface works well for this purpose. It helps to have the numbers of the tags you intended to use pre-recorded before you begin fishing.

Reporting Data
Call 735-8290
on Oahu to report tagging information. Tag and release activities have no value unless the data is reported. Information on the location will be kept confidential.