Largemouth Bass Tagging Studies

Tagging studies help biologists learn about largemouth bass populations and associated fishing activity throughout Florida.

largemouth bass with yellow dart tag, caption below
Yellow dart tag shown on the back of this
trophy-sized largemouth bass.

Reward tag studies are one method biologists with the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) use to learn about Florida’s freshwater fish populations. These studies also engage anglers in the scientific process, helping connect researchers and managers to the stakeholders they serve and validate the science on which management decisions are based.

Most tagging studies consist of a few basic components. Scientists first collect and tag fish in a particular lake or region. They then release the tagged fish back into the population. Each tag has a phone number on it, allowing anglers who catch a tagged fish to report information about their catch to biologists. Each tag also has a monetary reward associated with it to encourage angler reporting.

Biologists primarily use tagging studies to estimate annual catch and harvest rates for fish populations to help managers set regulations that sustain healthy bass populations. FWRI biologists are conducting three largemouth bass tagging studies that range in scope from a trophy-sized bass study encompassing the entire state to a study targeting bass in a single lake.

Statewide trophy-sized bass study
This study includes locations throughout the state and is designed to evaluate the influence of the TrophyCatch program. The FWC launched TrophyCatch in 2012 to reduce harvest of largemouth bass 8 pounds and larger, boosting anglers’ opportunities to experience the thrill of catching a trophy-sized largemouth in Florida. Anglers are offered incentives for releasing these trophy-sized fish. The tagging project began one year prior to the launch of TrophyCatch. Biologists collected bass 8 pounds and larger by electrofishing and tagged them before release. They used data collected during that period to establish a baseline for catch and harvest rates. Biologists estimate that anglers caught approximately 21 percent of the tagged bass, and harvested 4 percent during the baseline year. They also found that bass weighing more than 10 pounds were harvested at a higher rate, primarily for taxidermy, than smaller bass. Biologists will continue this study for the next five years to monitor how TrophyCatch incentives influence angler behavior by comparing catch and harvest rates during this period to those observed prior to the program.

Northwest regional tagging study
FWRI biologists are conducting a reward-based tagging study in Northwest Florida, west of the Suwannee River. In late 2012, they tagged bass 12 inches and longer in 16 lakes across the 12-county study area. Biologists are monitoring tag returns for one year to measure catch and harvest rates. The data they provide to managers will be discussed with anglers to help determine the most suitable regulations for creating and sustaining quality bass fisheries in this region.

Lake Eustis tagging study
Lake Eustis is part of Central Florida’s Harris Chain of Lakes, a popular bass-fishing destination. The primary objective of this study is to complete a full stock assessment of the largemouth bass population in a moderately to heavily fished lake. Biologists will use data from tag reports to estimate the percentage of bass caught and harvested each year. They will combine this information with other data and provide it to managers, who can then determine if the current length and bag limits are appropriate or need to be adjusted. As a secondary objective, biologists are using what they learn from the tag returns, along with data from creel surveys and other information, to determine the best way to estimate the total number of bass in a large lake.

biologist releasing tagged bass, caption below
An FWRI biologist releases a tagged bass.

What to do if you catch a
tagged largemouth bass

FWRI biologists use the same yellow plastic dart tags for all bass tagging projects. These thin, 3.5-inch-long tags are attached to the bass on the left side near the dorsal fin. If you catch a tagged bass, clip the tag close to the fish’s back and save the tag. Anglers are not obligated to release tagged bass but must comply with harvest regulations. When you report the tag, an FWRI staff member will ask a few brief questions about your catch and help you claim the monetary reward. Anglers, remember to check each bass you catch, sometimes algae covers the tag making it somewhat difficult to see, so look closely. Tagging studies give you the opportunity to participate in valuable research that helps managers sustain Florida’s largemouth bass fisheries.

Note: If the phone number on the tag is not legible, call the appropriate number listed below.

  • Northwest regional study: 850-717-8736
  • All other bass tagging studies: 850-363-6037


FWC Facts:
Smalltooth sawfish double their length from 2.5 feet at birth to 5 feet by the end of their first year in Florida’s estuarine nurseries.

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