As the aquaculture industry considers moving into the open ocean, understanding the dynamic response of fish containment structures becomes critical. Identification of possible resonant conditions and motion characteristics is necessary for system structural integrity and maximizing fish survivability. In this study, heave (vertical motion) free release tests of a central spar fish cage were conducted using a combination of physical and finite element models and field observations. These tests were performed to investigate the added mass, damping ratio and natural period of the system in the vertical direction. The test results were analyzed considering both linear and nonlinear damping. The comparison of these tests show that (1) the damped natural period of this fish cage is longer than 20 seconds, (2) the numerical model underestimates the damping and the cage oscillates longer and at a higher frequency than observed with the field tests and (3) the physical model is nearly critically damped near equilibrium due to Reynolds number effects at the model scale.