SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — For people participating in recreational ocean salmon fishing, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife may want the heads from some of the salmon you catch.


Well, California hatcheries release about 40 million Chinook salmon every year, and some of those have a Coded Wire Tag implanted into them before being released. Those tags tell biologists which hatchery the salmon is from, what year it was released, and where it was released — among other information.

That information is essential for the conservation of Chinook salmon. Fish and Wildlife said the information is used to make “stock abundance forecasts” and helps “inform the development of annual fishing regulations” — All meant to avoid any conservation concerns.

(California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

According to Fish and Wildlife, those tags are placed on a minimum of 25% of Chinook salmon before being released into rivers, bays and estuaries in California. The tags are about a millimeter in length, so they may be hard to spot. 

However, salmon with the tags also have a clipped fin that allows them to be easily spotted by a Fish and Wildlife representative. If a representative asks for the salmon’s head, fishers should comply. 

Fishers are required by law to hand over the “head of any adipose fin-clipped salmon upon request.” If fishers do get one of those fish, they are allowed to ask for the information from the tag once it’s processed. 

Fish and Wildlife recommend that fishers check for updated information when planning to go fish. That information is located on their ocean salmon webpage