The efficiency of individual genetic tagging was determined by using passive integrated transponders (PIT) as a comparative conventional tagging method. Fifty-five common dace Leuciscus leuciscus were captured in the wild, PIT tagged and fin clipped (for DNA analysis). Thirty fish were recaptured on three occasions and tissue samples were collected. Using 18 microsatellite loci, 79–94% of the recaptures were correctly assigned. Experience with scoring L. leuciscus microsatellites led to more individuals correctly assigned. Allowing matches that differed by one or two alleles resulted in 100% of all recaptures successfully assigned irrespective of the observer. Reducing the set of loci to five to six loci appropriately selected did not affect the assignment rate, demonstrating that costs can be subsequently reduced. Despite their potential benefits, the application of genetic tags for teleosts has been limited. Here, it was demonstrated that genetic tagging could be applied, and a clear guideline (flowchart) is provided on how this method can be developed for teleosts and other organisms, with subsequent practical applications to ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation management.