Keeping it Creel: A Conservation and Management Tool

To help conserve and manage a fishery, biologists use a variety of scientific sampling methods to collect data such as seines, trap nets, and electrofishing. Angler effort and catch rate is another important aspect of fish conservation and fisheries management and a creel survey can provide some valuable information.

Fisheries Management Improved by Anglers’ Answers

A creel survey involves interviewing anglers about their fishing success for the day. This can be accomplished on shore, by boat, at access points such as boat ramps, or even on ice. The interviewer attempts to minimize any inconvenience to the angler and disturbance of fishing. Some of the information gathered can include: targeted species, fish released, actual length and quantity of harvested fish, and distance traveled to that body of water. Additionally, location of fishing spot on the water, weather, date, and time of day will be recorded.

This information is paired with the data from the scientific sampling and used by fisheries management to help set regulations. To improve a fishery, regulations may be altered to improve the quality of fish. For example in Pennsylvania in 1996, the length limit for largemouth bass and muskellunge was 12” and 30”, respectively. Almost 20 years later, the current length limits for those species is 15” and 40”. Some regulation changes may address the quantity such as the number of trout that can be kept each day was dropped from 8 to 5. And, some species may require adjustments to both regulations such as with the pickerel which went from 15” length limit, 6 per day to 18” length limit, 4 per day, during that same period.

Survey Data Key to Fish Conservation

Fish population naturally fluctuates over time and to some extent, so do the goals of area anglers. By continuing to gather data both from scientific sampling and angler surveys, fisheries biologists protect a sustainable fish population while still preserving angler smiles. Have you participated in a creel survey?

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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.