Biologists use angler surveys to collect information about Florida's freshwater sport fisheries. Included here are the latest estimates of catch, harvest and success rate for black crappie, largemouth bass and sunfish species.

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Biologist interviewing an angler about his fishing trip.

Have you ever been fishing on a freshwater lake and had a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) biologist approach you about your fishing trip? Some of the questions a biologist may have asked would be: How many hours have you been fishing? What fish species are you targeting? How many have you caught and/or harvested? These questions are all part of what fisheries biologists term a "creel survey," or angler survey.

FWC biologists use the data obtained from creel surveys to assess the status of Florida's recreational freshwater fisheries, in particular, its popular largemouth bass, black crappie, and sunfish (panfish or bream) fisheries. Choosing which bodies of water to conduct creel surveys is based on a variety of factors, such as whether the body of water has historically supported quality fisheries and whether management activities of the lake, pond, river or stream need to be evaluated.

Creel surveys are just one tool used by the FWC to assess the status of sport fish populations within the state and to ensure a good fishing experience for both its citizens and visitors.

Creel surveys were conducted on 18 water bodies between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009. Creel survey durations may vary from site to site but were chosen by local biologists to capture the peak sportfishing season for each body of water. Because the length of these creel surveys and the surface area varies among water bodies, creel estimates are divided by lake size that are measured in hectares (a hectare is roughly 2.5 acres) and the duration of the creel survey (per 100 days). By doing this, comparisons of these estimates can be made among water bodies. Thus, sportfish-directed angling effort is expressed as the number of hours fished or angler-hours per hectare per 100 days. Catch and harvest are expressed as the number of fish caught per hectare per 100 days.

Lakes deemed to have the best fishing are those with the greatest angler success rate (number of fish caught per angler hour). Typically, an angler success rate is only estimated for largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), because catch-and-release is a common practice with this fishery. The highest success rate for largemouth bass was found at L-67A Canal in Dade County. High success rate estimates were also found at Orange Lake (Alachua County), Stick Marsh/Farm 13 (Indian River County), Lake Panasoffkee (Sumter County), Lake Lochloosa (Alachua County) and Lake Tohopekaliga (Osceola County).

Table 1 displays the largemouth bass success rate results for 17 bodies of water that were creeled in 2008-09, along with results for largemouth bass angling effort (number of angler hours fished), harvest (total number of fish harvested) and catch (total number of fish caught).

Table 1. Largemouth bass results of creel survey analyses from seventeen Florida water bodies sampled in 2008-09.

Water Body

County

Effort

Harvest

Catch

Success

Crescent

Putnam

0.24

0.04

0.13

0.52

Dead Lakes

Gulf

2.38

0.72

1.37

0.46

Deer Point

Bay

4.38

0.54

1.87

0.42

Griffin

Lake

0.65

0.01

0.20

0.30

Istokpoga

Highlands

3.23

0.03

1.78

0.61

Kissimmee

Osceola

4.31

0.62

2.15

0.53

L-67A Canal

Dade

195.52

27.44

864.53

4.42

Lochloosa

Alachua

1.04

0.55

1.36

0.78

Newnan

Alachua

0.12

0.02

0.05

0.04

Okeechobee

Palm Beach

1.00

0.00

0.44

0.47

Orange

Alachua

3.90

0.63

4.95

1.22

Panasoffkee

Sumter

5.77

0.57

4.77

0.83

Santa Fe

Alachua

5.81

0.79

2.62

0.45

Stick Marsh/Farm 13

Indian River

7.63

0.00

6.38

0.85

Tohopekaliga

Osceola

3.70

0.39

2.27

0.64

Washington

Brevard

2.14

0.05

0.50

0.17

Weohyakapka

Polk

3.65

0.08

2.40

0.59

Average (all water bodies except L-67A)

3.12

0.32

2.08

0.56

Typically, anglers who fish for sunfish or black crappie harvest their catch. Therefore, lakes with the best sunfish or black crappie fishing are those with the greatest angler harvest success rate (number of fish harvested per angler hour). The highest harvest success rate estimate for black crappie was found at Lake Tohopekaliga, while Lake Kissimmee (Osceola County), Crescent Lake (Putnam County), Dead Lakes (Gulf County) and Lake Istokpoga (Highlands County) also had high harvest success rates.

The highest harvest success rate estimate for sunfish was found at L-67A Canal, while Lake Trafford (Collier County), Lake Weohyakapka (Polk County), Lake Istokpoga and Orange Lake also had high harvest success rates. Tables 2 and 3 display the black crappie and sunfish harvest success rate results for 18 bodies of water creeled in 2008-09, along with results for black crappie and sunfish angling effort and harvest.

Table 2. Black crappie results of creel survey analyses from Florida bodies of water sampled in 2008-09.

Water Body

County

Effort

Harvest

Harvest Success

Crescent

Putnam

6.28

10.14

1.59

Dead Lakes

Gulf

0.66

0.73

1.57

Deer Point

Bay

0.64

0.79

1.17

Griffin

Lake

3.23

3.68

1.11

Istokpoga

Highlands

2.16

3.29

1.34

Kissimmee

Osceola

3.87

7.08

1.61

Lochloosa

Alachua

4.52

7.75

0.81

Newnan

Alachua

3.21

2.67

0.53

Okeechobee

Palm Beach

1.02

0.88

0.76

Orange

Alachua

0.23

0.35

0.80

Panasoffkee

Sumter

2.81

1.66

0.85

Santa Fe

Alachua

1.17

0.78

0.63

Stick Marsh/Farm 13

Indian River

6.42

4.45

0.73

Tohopekaliga

Osceola

0.57

1.33

1.84

Trafford

Collier

22.31

27.01

1.12

Washington

Brevard

1.36

0.79

0.49

Weohyakapka

Polk

4.59

5.50

1.16

Average (all water bodies)

3.83

4.64

1.07

Table 3. Sunfish results of creel survey analyses from Florida bodies of water sampled in 2008-09.

Water Body

County

Effort

Harvest

Harvest Success

Crescent

Putnam

1.19

3.54

2.73

Dead Lakes

Gulf

17.92

22.58

1.26

Deer Point

Bay

6.52

5.90

0.91

Griffin

Lake

0.50

0.38

0.77

Istokpoga

Highlands

0.67

2.09

3.14

Kissimmee

Osceola

1.76

4.44

3.02

L-67A Canal

Dade

57.43

239.52

4.17

Lochloosa

Alachua

3.42

9.37

1.77

Newnan

Alachua

3.50

7.14

1.25

Okeechobee

Palm Beach

0.32

0.99

3.06

Orange

Alachua

1.67

5.54

3.06

Panasoffkee

Sumter

2.92

4.99

1.47

Santa Fe

Alachua

1.56

1.72

1.06

Stick Marsh/Farm 13

Indian River

0.53

1.11

1.18

Tohopekaliga

Osceola

0.37

0.71

2.03

Trafford

Collier

1.40

7.30

3.98

Washington

Brevard

1.74

1.62

1.40

Weohyakapka

Polk

0.15

0.94

3.20

Average (all water bodies except L-67A)

2.71

4.73

2.08

Biologist approaching a fishing party during a creel survey. Photo credit: FWC
Biologist approaching a fishing party during a creel survey.

Creel surveys are also used by fisheries biologists to obtain "human dimensions" data. Human dimensions is a term used to describe the human or angler component of freshwater fisheries and allows biologists to obtain data regarding anglers socioeconomics (such as background, attitudes, beliefs, expectations, motivations, values, or economics). From these data, fisheries managers can better indentify and understand their stakeholders and assess how anglers' needs and desires are being met. For example, if managers find that angler satisfaction is low, management actions (regulation changes, sportfish stocking or habitat manipulation) may be implemented.

Data may also be used by managers to better understand why anglers choose to fish a particular water body or take part in certain practices (like catch-and-release). Creel data regarding the economic output of freshwater anglers allows managers to gauge the importance of a particular body of water. These data can further be used to measure the contribution of freshwater recreational fisheries to local economies. Other common human dimensions data obtained from creel surveys include comparing the number of state residents to the number of non-resident anglers and the number of anglers fishing in tournaments versus non-tournament anglers.

Creel surveys are an important part of freshwater fisheries monitoring and your continued cooperation with these surveys will only help to make the future of Florida's recreational freshwater fisheries better.



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