Oregon digs into angler satisfaction data to improve Crooked River fishery

By on September 15, 2014

The premise seems simple enough: Anglers who catch more fish tend to be more satisfied than those who catch fewer fish. But understanding the ins and outs of angler satisfaction is so important to fishery management, that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife conducted a study to quantify the aspects of fishing that make one trip better than another.

The study was part of a bigger look at sport fishing and its effects on native fish populations in Oregon’s Crooked River, said Joshua McCormick, study author and fisheries biometrician with the Oregon DFW. He and his co-author, Timothy Porter, used creel surveys to collect valuable data about angler satisfaction and various catch metrics.

Creel clerks interviewed anglers fishing the Crooked River, asking the number and size of any fish caught, the angler’s satisfaction with their trip, the angler’s age and more. Employing statistical techniques, the researchers modeled fishing satisfaction as a function of the other variables.

“There have been several studies where angler satisfaction was related to fishing success and other variables,” McCormick said. “However, we are unaware of any study that has been able to say that a certain percent of anglers are expected to be satisfied with their fishing trip as a function of what they caught.”

As might be expected, the models showed that anglers feel better about their trip when they catch more, longer fish per hour. Interestingly, age seems to have a significant bearing on angler satisfaction: Young’uns take a more experiential approach to casting a line, reporting higher levels of satisfaction even when there are fewer bites.

Bridge over Crooked River Gorge (Credit: Kris Arnold, via Flickr)

Bridge over Crooked River Gorge (Credit: Kris Arnold, via Flickr)

The Oregon DFW is instituting similar survey techniques at lake and reservoir fisheries in the state to determine if the same factors that contribute to angler satisfaction in rivers apply to other types of fisheries, McCormick said. He noted that both the survey and analysis portions of the study were “pretty straightforward,” and without challenge.

“We are still sorting this out, but management objectives for the fish population and fishery performance will be established that maximize angler satisfaction based on what we observed in this study,” McCormick said.

Though McCormick didn’t provide specifics regarding the management actions that the Crooked River fisheries are considering, he mentioned bag limits, size limits and planned fish stocking as options. Their study, he said, will make Oregon fisheries among the first to use statistical data to satisfy particular angler segments with appropriate management measures. When it comes to making anglers happy, McCormick believes this approach will give the Oregon DFW a leg up.

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