Photo: Wes Blow

Wild Chesapeake: Tagged Va. Cobia Sets Record

Do you recall where you were fishing and what you caught on June 25, 2009? Me neither. But Sheldon Arey does. The super volunteer participant in the Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program (VGFTP) was fishing over the Latimer Shoals near Cape Charles when he caught, tagged, and released a 26-inch cobia.

On May 27 of this year while fishing at the York Spit east of Mobjack Bay, Alison Temple recaptured the fish 3,623 days after Arey tagged it, a new days-at-large record for the tagging program. She measured the now 53-inch fish, collected the tag information, and released the fish to swim away. The previous days-at-large record was a tautog, which enjoyed 3,411 days between being tagged and recaptured.

“Our historical VGFTP data show that 86 percent of cobia tagged in Virginia are recaptured in Virginia,” said Susanna Musick, the marine recreation specialist with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS). “Long-term recaptures like Sheldon’s cobia are important sources of data that can reflect our overall patterns of migration and site fidelity. We are so lucky to have dedicated volunteers like Sheldon and thoughtful anglers like Alison who collect and report data for our recreationally important finfish species!”

The Virginia Game Fish Tagging Program is directed by the American Littoral Society and has collected data from more than 320,000 fish since 1995. The program’s funding comes from state saltwater license funds and VIMS. Participation is limited to 200 anglers, and anglers are requested to renew their registration each year. Training workshops in proper handling, tagging and releasing techniques for new participants are held in March in Hampton to ensure the quality of the tagging efforts.

For more information about Virginia’s fish tagging program, contact Marine Recreation Specialist and VGFTP Coordinator Susanna Musick, (804) 684-7166.

-Capt. Chris Dollar