Tag Recovery and Reward

There's a reward offered for every IPHC tag returned!

Contact us at tag@iphc.int

Tag Types

Traditional wire tags

  • Threaded through the operculum (cheek area) on the dark side of the body.
  • The usual reward is $10 cash or an IPHC tag hat for each tag returned.
  • Some wire tags are worth $100 or $200 and these have the reward printed on the tag.

Spaghetti tags

  • Plastic spaghetti tags were used in the voluntary sport charter-boat tagging program from the 1990s. Tags were attached to either a plastic or stainless steel dart and inserted either in the back of the fish (plastic darts) or the cheek on the dark side (stainless steel dart). Recoveries of this tag type are not very common since releases occurred quite some time ago.

Pop-up archival transmitting tags

  • Attached near the dorsal by a metal dart and leader.
  • Rewards: $500 for tag body*, $50 for the leader and metal dart tag only, $10 or tag hat for leader only.
    *Note that these tags may be found attached to a halibut, free floating, or washed ashore.

Electronic archival tags

  • Attached externally near the dorsal via a plastic "cradle" and wires.
  • Or implanted internally in the abdominal cavity
  • $500 reward for the return of the tag body.

"Dummy" archival tags

  • Fish has both a pink wire tag in the cheek and either an internal or external dummy archival tag.
  • Internal "gut" tags have the tag body inside the abdominal cavity with the stalk protruding outside the fish. (below, top)
  • Externally mounted tags are attached near the dorsal. (below, bottom)
  • $100 reward for the return of the archival tag body.
  • $100 reward for the return of the pink wire tag (reward printed on tag).

So you've caught a tagged halibut...

You can contact IPHC to see if there is a port sampler nearby to assist in the data collection, or you can collect the data yourself. If it's the latter case, there are a few things we'd like you to do:

A. Remove the tag from the fish.

Removal method depends on the type of tag.

  • Traditional wire cheek tag can be removed by untwisting the wire and pulling it through the hole or cutting the cheek tissue. Please do not cut the tag (or yourself).
  • Plastic spaghetti tags with metal or plastic-tipped dart tags must be cut out of the fish so that the dart is completely removed from the flesh. The metal-tipped tags were placed in the cheek while the plastic-tipped ones were inserted behind the fin rays above the head.
  • Pop-up archival transmitting (PAT) tags are attached to a black plastic leader which in turn is attached to a titanium-metal dart which anchors the tag assembly to the fish. Even after the tag body has released and popped up, the leader remains attached to the fish. The metal dart should be cut completely out of the fish and returned with the plastic leader.
  • External electronic archival tags and external archival "dummy"tags are attached by wires that run completely through the body of the fish through the dorsal musculature. The wires should be cut out of the fish and collected along with the tag body, cradle (archival tags) and backing plate on the fish's white side.
  • Internally-implanted electronic archival and "dummy"archival tags do not possess an attaching mechanism; the only thing to remove is the tag itself which will be inside the body cavity.

Don't lose the tag--it's the proof you'll need to get your reward.

B. Measure the fork length of the fish

Measure the length of the fish (preferably in centimeters) from the tip of its mouth (chin) to the fork of its tail. The proper measurement is a flat, horizontal distance rather than a measurement which follows the contour of the fish. Please make certain the fish is on a flat surface and that the mouth is closed.

The best way to make a measurement is to:

  1. Place the fish's chin against a stable vertical surface, such as a wall
  2. Put a marker at the fork of the tail
  3. Remove the fish
  4. Measure the distance from where the fish touched the vertical surface to the marker.

C. Cut out the otolith*

The otoliths, or earbones, are used to determine the age of the fish. There are 3 pairs of otoliths in each fish, though only 1 pair is easily visible. Of this visible pair, we want the one from the white side.

  1. If the fish is round (gills and guts intact) the first thing to do is remove the gills. Make note of where the top part of the gills connects to the backbone: this is where you'll find the otoliths.
  2. Lay the fish white side up and lift open the operculum, or gill cover. Run your finger along the backbone near where the gills used to be. You should feel a bulge. This is the otic capsule.
  3. Using a moderately sharp knife, make a shallow cut and take the top off the capsule. If done right, you should see a cavity with the otolith suspended within.
  4. Place the otolith in a protective container so that it is not crushed.

[Diagram] [Video]

* Please don't attempt this if you're not good with knives. Minors (who are old enough to play with knives) should still have adult supervision. The Commission takes no responsibility for any possible injuries resulting from this procedure.

D. Submit the information

In addition to the otolith and fork length, we would like:

  1. Tag number: if the number appears illegible, don't throw the tag away. We can still read it in the lab.
  2. Recovery date: when the fish was caught
  3. Recovery location: preferably latitude/longitude coordinates, though distance and bearing from a landmark would be acceptable (e.g. 3 miles SW of Cape Barto)
  4. Depth: the depth at which you were fishing, in fathoms (1 fathom = 6 ft)
  5. Sex: male or female, if known
  6. Gear type: longline, troll, trawl, pot, or sport
  7. Landing port: where the fish was brought in
  8. Vessel name and number: if commercially caught
  9. Name and complete mailing address
  10. Reward type: baseball cap or monetary reward ($10.00 in most cases unless specified on the tag)

If more than one tagged fish is recovered, please keep the information from each fish separate.

Return this information to:

Attn: Joan Forsberg
2320 W. Commodore Way, Suite 300
Seattle WA 98199-1287