BlogAugust 2016

Classifying Fun for Aquatic Conservation

Classifying Fun for Aquatic Conservation

By Andy Whitcomb

Aug 01, 2016

Effective fisheries management includes collecting data on each fish species. Find out how one biologist categorizes fish by length, with some humorous additions by a recreational angler.

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.

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Andy Whitcomb
Andy Whitcomb
Andy is an outdoor writer ( and stressed-out Dad has contributed over 380 blogs to since 2011. Born in Florida, but raised on banks of Oklahoma farm ponds, he now chases pike, smallmouth bass, and steelhead in Pennsylvania. After earning a B.S. in Zoology from OSU, he worked in fish hatcheries and as a fisheries research technician at OSU, Iowa State, and Michigan State.