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 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.