Classifying Fun for Aquatic Conservation

Fisheries biologists strive to manage our aquatic resources in a way that keeps everyone happy. Anglers, boaters, and other recreational users may value different water applications, but aquatic conservation and maintaining healthy, sustainable fish populations and structure is top priority. By using sampling data such as lengths, fisheries management is based not only on what the fishing is like now, but how it will be in the future as these fish grow.

One Measure of Fisheries Management
Here is how fisheries researcher Donald W. Gabelhouse, Jr. categorized fishing quality with regard to length:

“Stock”: About 25% of world record length for that fish species. Generally, minimum recreational value.

“Quality”: 35% of world record length.

“Preferred”: 50% of world record length.

“Memorable”: 60% of world record length.

“Trophy”: 75% of world record length. 

There are now length classifications for every fish species. For example, a “stock” walleye length would be around 10 inches, while a “trophy” would be 30 inches. A “quality” largemouth bass falls into the 12-inch range where a “memorable” largemouth would measure 20 inches.

From a scientific, conservation standpoint, I get it. These categories help fisheries managers track quality and a perceived value of fishing opportunities.  However, as a recreational angler, every fish I’ve caught (or even SEEN caught) was “memorable.”  I’ve even caught fish that, under the circumstances that day, might qualify as “trophies” even though nowhere near the measured length of a researcher’s data table. In fact, I even recognize another category I refer to as “Dinks” but even those fish can be a lot of fun.

Want to learn more about aquatic conservation?

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Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb

Andy Whitcomb is a columnist, outdoor humorist, and stressed-out Dad. He says there are “people who fish”… and there are “fishermen”.  One of the few things he knows is that he is a “fisherman”...  To the point it could be classified as borderline illness.  Sharing this obsession is rewarding, therapeutic. He likes to encourage people to “stop and smell the crappie."  Enjoys catching fish, but gets a greater thrill out of helping someone else hook up.
Born in Florida, but raised on the banks of Oklahoma farm ponds. Now relocated to western Pennsylvania. He has fished, worked, lived all around the US.  He has a B.S. in Zoology from Oklahoma State as well...
And he met his wife while electrofishing. He has been contributing weekly to since 2011.