Red Snapper Tagging

Project Leader: Justin McDonald, Lab Technician

Project Details

High Dollar Red Snapper Tagging Program


Red Snapper is an economically significant fish in the Gulf of Mexico. However the species is currently overfished and extensive efforts have been put towards developing models to estimate stocks and develop management plans. Recreational fishing mortality is a significant component of these models and can be difficult to estimate. To increase the accuracy of these estimates, a high dollar red snapper tagging program was put into place.


The objectives of the high dollar red snapper tagging program are to (1) tag enough red snapper in the Alabama Artificial Reef Permit Zone (AARPZ) to accurately estimate recreational fishing mortality in the AARPZ and (2) to use this estimate of recreational fishing mortality estimate in models to assess red snapper populations in the Gulf of Mexico.


To accomplish these objectives, teams will randomly tag 750 legal sized red snapper every year throughout the AARPZ. Each tag will be worth $250, allowing us to assume that 100% of the tags caught will be returned. Some fish will receive two tags so that we can calculate tag shed rate. All red snapper will be released using a sequalizer and action cameras to ensure that the fish are released unharmed. A separate team will then receive calls from fisherman who catch the tagged fish and use that information to create an estimate of recreational fishing mortality.

Results to Date: In 2016, we tagged 724 Red Snapper. 84 of those fish were recaptured and reported during the 2016 Alabama state recreational season. Tag shedding rates have been determined to be very low. 443 Red Snapper were tagged in 2017 and 535 Red Snapper 2018 with plans on tagging Triggerfish in 2019.

Funding Sources

DISL, the University of South Alabama, Auburn University, the Alabama Department of Conservation, ALMRD, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.