Step 1: Request A Tuna Tagging Kit
The first step to tagging bluefin tuna begins with requesting a tagging kit from the Tag a Tiny Program by making a $20 donation. Each tagging kit contains five conventional tags with data cards as well as educational leaflets illustrating the proper technique and placement of the tags, and a steel applicator, if requested.
Each individual tag comes with an associated data card for information such as date, lat/long, fight time, condition and size of fish, whether the hook was removed or not, angler, and captain contact information. It is imperative that all information is recorded. It does no good if a tag is deployed and there’s no information pertaining to when, where, or what was tagged.
Step 2: Make A Tuna Tagging Stick
You’ll have to fashion yourself a tagging stick. The folks at Tuna Lab recommend fixing your steel applicator to a wooden dowel. Make sure to have some sort of stopper that can help adjust the length of the steel applicator depending on the size of the fish.
Step 3: Prepare The Tuna Tag
On the water, after you’ve verified that the tag number matches the data card, slide the nylon dart over the end of the applicator and secure the tag to the tagging stick with a rubber band. Keep the loaded tagging stick within easy reach before beginning fishing and store the data card in a dry location. Ensuring the tuna swims away strong is essential whether tagging a tuna or just practicing catch and release. Use wet gloves when possible, avoid lifting or carrying the fish solely by the tail, and minimize the time out of the water.
Step 4: Insert The Tuna Tag
To tag the fish, insert the dart into the muscle just below the base of the second dorsal fin—very little force is needed to insert it. Aim for anchoring the dart into the fin rays, the internal vertical cartilage that supports the dorsal fins.
Step 5: Measure And Release The Tuna
Measure or estimate the length and weight of the fish, remove the hook or cut the leader near the hook, and return the fish to the water as quickly as possible. Other ways you can help improve a tuna’s odds of survival is placing a wet, dark cloth over the fish’s eyes for minimizing stress, having a soft surface to place the fish on, and using a plastic stopper on the tagging stick to adjust for tag depth.
Step 6: Submit The Tuna Data Report Card
Immediately after the release, record the release date, location (latitude & longitude), and size of fish. Completely and legibly fill out the Tagging Data Report Card. Drop your data card in the mail as soon as possible—no postage necessary.