Instructions for Using the Tarpon DNA Sampling Kit

Tarpon anglers can learn how to collect, store, and submit tarpon DNA samples for the statewide Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study.

The objective is to remove a small sample of skin cells from the outer jaw of the captured tarpon before it is released. This can be done with minimal handling while the fish remains in the water.

This image shows the method by which skin cells may be sampled.

Scrub pad before DNA sample
Scrub pad before obtaining DNA sample
scrub pad after DNA sample
Scrub pad after obtaining DNA sample


DNA-sample-kit.jpg DNA Sampling Kit
  • Three abrasive scrub pads for single use
  • Pencil
  • Instruction sheet
  • Waterproof data sheet
  • Three labeled vials with storage solution


Instructions for Use

Watch an educational video
to learn about the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study. The video includes instructions on how to participate, so you’ll get a step-by-step look at how to take a tarpon DNA sample and submit it to the FWC. You may also review the following steps.

 1. Though this task might be easier as a two-person operation, a freshly captured
 tarpon is often easily controlled by one person grasping the jaw with one hand, leaving
 the other hand free to obtain the sample.

2. When the captured tarpon is under control beside the boat, use the sampling sponge to rub the fish's outer jaw until the sponge is white or silver. A $50 permit (jaw tag) is not required to take a DNA jaw scrape from a tarpon.

3. After the tarpon is released, rinse your hands in seawater to remove all slime.

4. Place the sponge into a vial containing storage solution and close the lid tightly.  Try not to let slime, excess water, or other things get into the vial.

5. At least three-fourths of the sponge should be submerged in the storage solution.  If the solution spills or has drained out of the vial, insert the sponge into the vial but keep that vial refrigerated or frozen until a replacement vial containing storage solution can be obtained. Once the sponge is resubmerged in the replacement vial, it no longer requires refrigeration.

6. It is very important to use a different sponge and vial for each different fish.

7. Vials are prelabeled with a specimen ID number (for example, Mat10-10251).  Write the identification number on a data sheet in the spot for a new entry. Record the additional information for each tarpon.

8. We are asking for location information to track the movement of tarpon when they are recaptured.  General descriptive information (such as 200 yards south of the end of the north Skyway Pier) is fine.  GPS coordinates, if available, are preferred.  We are also asking if the fish swam away safely.  If it died (for example, was eaten by a shark), we can still use the information for our study of stock structure.

9. Samples can remain at room temperature until delivery to FWRI as long as the sponge is at least three-fourths submerged in the storage solution. If not, please see number 5 above. Jaw scrape tissues might start to dissolve into the storage solution over time, but this is OK.

Kits and refills (additional vials and data sheets) are available by contacting FWRI directly.

Even if you do not have a kit, you can still collect a sample. Here's how ...

  • Use a clean pair of scissors to take a half-inch fin clip, preferably from the long "thread" part of the dorsal fin.
  • Place the fin clip into a clean plastic zipper bag and immediately place on ice in a cooler.
  • Write your name, contact information, date and location of capture, and approximate length of tarpon on the plastic bag or a label included with the sample (see step 8 above).
  • When you arrive home, freeze the plastic bag with the DNA sample(s) until they can be dropped off at FWRI or you receive a sampling kit. Fin clips from your freezer can then be transferred to the vials of storage solution in the sampling kit.
  • Remember to rinse and dry the scissors between uses for different tarpon.  Always use a clean plastic bag and a new label for each different sample.

Feel free to hold all of your samples until the end of the tarpon season.  All samples can be dropped off at one of the collection sites or an FWRI facility near you, or mail them to FWRI directly.

Good news ...
As of March 2012, we have already identified approximately 100 recaptured tarpon from DNA samples donated by our Florida anglers.

Thank you for all of your efforts!

FWC Facts:
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