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Linking Angling Catch Rates and Fish Learning under Catch-and-Release Regulations


Abstract and Figures

Many recreational fisheries are subject to varying degrees of catch-and-release fishing through regulations and conservation-minded anglers. Clearly, releasing a proportion of the catch improves conservation of the fishery, yet it is not clear how the released catch contributes to angling quality. If fish change their behavior to lower their individual catchability after they have been caught, then angler catch rates may not be proportional to fish density. Therefore, even catch-and-release fisheries could exhibit poor angling quality if there is sufficiently high angler effort. We tested this idea by experimentally fishing five small lakes that contained rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss in the interior of British Columbia. We found that with sustained effort of 8 angler-hours · d · ha and complete release of the catch, catch rates quickly dropped within 7–10 d. Given the individual capture histories of tagged fish, the most parsimonious catchability model incorporated learning and heterogeneity into intrinsic catchability. The best-fit parameter values suggest that the population contained a group of highly catchable fish that were quickly caught and then learned to avoid hooks. There was a seasonal decrease in catchability that was independent of angling; however, it was not sufficient to explain the data. Our results indicate that catch rates may decline because of high angling effort even when the number of fish remains constant. Therefore, management goals that go beyond conservation issues and attempt to maximize angler satisfaction must account for effort density on a recreational fishery.
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Linking Angling Catch Rates and Fish Learning under
Catch-and-Release Regulations
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary,
2500 University Drive Northwest, Calgary, Alberta T2N 1N4, Canada
British Columbia Ministry of Environment, University of British Columbia, Vancouver,
British Columbia V6T 1Z4, Canada
Abstract.—Many recreational fisheries are subject to varying degrees of catch-and-release fishing through
regulations and conservation-minded anglers. Clearly, releasing a proportion of the catch improves
conservation of the fishery, yet it is not clear how the released catch contributes to angling quality. If fish
change their behavior to lower their individual catchability after they have been caught, then angler catch rates
may not be proportional to fish density. Therefore, even catch-and-release fisheries could exhibit poor angling
quality if there is sufficiently high angler effort. We tested this idea by experimentally fishing five small lakes
that contained rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss in the interior of British Columbia. We found that with
sustained effort of 8 angler-hours d
and complete release of the catch, catch rates quickly dropped
within 7–10 d. Given the individual capture histories of tagged fish, the most parsimonious catchability model
incorporated learning and heterogeneity into intrinsic catchability. The best-fit parameter values suggest that
the population contained a group of highly catchable fish that were quickly caught and then learned to avoid
hooks. There was a seasonal decrease in catchability that was independent of angling; however, it was not
sufficient to explain the data. Our results indicate that catch rates may decline because of high angling effort
even when the number of fish remains constant. Therefore, management goals that go beyond conservation
issues and attempt to maximize angler satisfaction must account for effort density on a recreational fishery.
Stringent regulations and conservation-minded an-
glers have made catch-and-release fishing increasingly
common in North America (Barnhart 1989; Cooke and
Suski 2005). Catch-and-release fisheries are positive
for conservation-oriented management goals, because
intentional, legal harvest mortality is eliminated.
However, managers often must balance conservation
issues with angler satisfaction and provide quality
angling opportunities. The extent to which angler catch
rates are improved by regulations that impose partial or
complete catch and release is unclear. If catch rates are
directly related to fish density, then angler catch should
increase in proportion to the number of fish saved from
harvest. However, catch-and-release fisheries differ
from harvest fisheries in that the fished population
consists of fish that have never been caught as well as
fish that have been caught and released. Thus, whether
catch per unit effort (CPUE) is proportional to density
depends on the intrinsic assumption that the catch-
ability of fish that have been caught before and fish that
have never been caught fish is equal.
Biologists have frequently observed seasonal de-
clines in CPUE that supersede the decline in sport fish
abundance due to harvest (Aldrich 1939; Beukema
1970; Hackney and Linkous 1978; van Poorten and
Post 2005). Catch per unit effort is the product of fish
density (number per area) and the capture efficiency of
anglers (area swept per angler time); therefore,
excessive decrease in CPUE indicates a s easonal
decrease in capture efficiency. It has been hypothesized
that this pattern may arise because previously caught
fish learn to avoid hooks. Decreased catchability of
previously captured fish has been tested for several
different sport fishes (Beukema 1970; Hackney and
Linkous 1978; Tsuboi and Morita 2004; Young and
Hayes 2004). The conditioning hypothesis has been
supported in most of these experiments. However,
some of the tests produced no evidence of learning, and
the effect appears to vary depending on species and
experimental conditions.
Several other processes have been postulated to
cause seasonal decreases in catchability. Martin (1958)
hypothesized that a rapid decrease in CPUE was caused
by differential vulnerability to capture among individ-
ual fish. The more vulnerable fish are r apidly
* Corresponding author:
Present address: Biological and Biomedical Science,
University of Durham, South Road, Durham DH1 3LE, UK.
Received January 31, 2006; accepted May 3, 2006
Published online November 30, 2006
North American Journal of Fisheries Management 26:1020–1029, 2006
Ó Copyright by the American Fisheries Society 2006
DOI: 10.1577/M06-035.1
harvested, which leaves a less vulnerable pool of fish
and a corresponding decrease in CPUE. Cox and
Walters (2002) presented a theoretical framework in
which fish populations are composed of two pools of
individuals that are defined as vulnerable or invulner-
able to angling. In their example, fish may move
between these defined states by a behavioral change in
reactivity to lures (independent of learne d ho ok
avoidance) or by physically moving between shallow,
fishable shoals and deepwater, unfishable habitats.
They showed theoretically that when an invulnerable
pool of fish is present, increasing effort can lead to
decreased catch rates, despite a near-constant fish
density. Finally, catchability may decrease because of
seasonal environmental changes that are independent
of angler dynamics (van Poorten and Post 2005).
Seasonal changes in temperature and resource avail-
ability may affect the feeding behavior of fish and thus
their susceptibility to anglers.
Seasonal decreases in catchability are common in
recreational fisheries; however, the mechanisms un-
derlying this pattern re main unclear. Evidence is
accumulating to suggest that learned hook avoidance
is a common behavioral response among sport fishes.
However, the most convincing evidence comes from
the laboratory or small experimental ponds. How this
individual-level behavior scales up to entire recrea-
tional fisheries is still poorly understood. In this study,
we used several whole-lake experimental fisheries to
investigate mechanisms for decreased catchability. We
used the individual capture histories of tagged fish to
infer the processes leading to changes in observed
catchability. These processes were then modeled as
time series superimposed against the observed fishery
Experimental lakes.—Our study was conducted on
four lakes that contained naturalized populations of
rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mykiss and were located
on the Bonaparte Plateau north of Kamloops, British
Columbia (5189
N, 120823
W; altitude ¼
1,500 m; Table 1). One of the lakes was divided into
two sections, which created a total of five experimental
units. Four of the experimental lakes were subjected to
low angler effort and used to detect environmental
effects on catchability. We subjected one small lake to
intensive fishing effort in order to investigate the
effects of angling pressure on catchability.
To maximize our data collection regime, it was
necessary to create a small, fishable lake that had a
high density of catchable-sized fish. This was accom-
plished by quarantining a 1.1-ha section of the 3.2-ha
Pantano Lake. The natural bathymetry of the lake
consisted of two basins separated by a narrow (width
12 m) and shallow (mean depth ¼ 0.5 m) section. To
divide the lake, we constructed a fence of rebar and 6-
mm mesh wire fencing across the shallow area between
the two basins. The small basin was named Little
Pantano and the large basin was named Big Pantano.
We used Little Pantano, which had no creeks flowing
in or out, for the high-effort angling experiment. Fish
were captured with fyke nets (hoop diameter ¼ 0.5 m;
mesh diameter ¼ 6 mm) from both basins and a nearby
lake. We graded the catch for the largest individuals
(minimum fork length ¼ 150 mm) to be tagged and
measured. The fish were released into Little Pantano
after a 24-h recovery period in a net pen. In total, 159
indi vidual ly tagged fish were released into Little
Pantano. In addition, we stocked small size-classes of
fish that were batch marked with fin clips as part of a
separate study. Specifically, we released three size-
classes of fish: 100 small (mean fork length ¼ 80 mm),
79 medium (mean fork length ¼ 117 mm), and 80 large
(mean fork length ¼ 147 mm). Use of several size-
classes allowed us to assess size selectivity of the
angling gear and to observe the rate at which each
group was recruited into the fishery.
Between September 29 and October 3, 2004, we
used gill nets and fyke nets to sample Little Pantano.
Over five nights, the sizes and numbers of gill nets
used per hectare were identical to those used by Post et
al. (1999) and Askey et al. (in press). This standardized
gill-net method has been found to be non-size-selective
for taggable-sized fish (.150 mm). We also fished one
to three fyke nets per night to capture small fish ( ,100
mm) as part of a separate study. The efficiency of our
netting effort was assessed by the recovery rates for
three size-classes of fish that had been stocked 1 week
before netting. After making a temporary clip on the
upper tip of the caudal fin, we released 60 small (mean
fork length ¼ 117 mm), 40 medium (mean fork length
¼ 156 mm), and 45 large (mean fork length ¼ 191 mm)
fish into all lakes for the mark–recapture experiment.
Furthermore, we used fyke nets to capture fish in each
TABLE 1.—Physical description of experimental lakes in
British Columbia used to assess catchability of rainbow trout,
and total angler effort for each lake for the entire open-water
season (1 angler-day is 4 angler-hours).
depth (m)
Total effort
Little Pantano 1.1 3 72.2
Big Pantano 2.1 4 2.9
Today 6.5 11 1.5
Stubby 6.2 9 1.4
Spook 4.4 4 1.5
lake in the week before netting; these fish were clipped
and released, which added 52 fish to the mark–
recapture effort.
Capture efficiency for the gill nets and fyke nets of
tagged fish was estimated from the proportion of
marked fish recovered (fork lengths of 180–310 mm,
equivalent to range in size of tagged fish) as p ¼ m/n
where p is the probability of capture, n is the number of
marked fish released, and m is the number of marked
fish that were recaptured.
Angling procedures.—To standardize our angling
treatment as much as possible, we restricted the angling
to three individuals who used similar fly-fishing gear.
We tested fly patterns on a nearby lake that was not
part of the experiment and chose two general patterns,
which were used for all angling. The patterns were tied
on number 14 hooks; one imitated a general nymph
and the other was a leech pattern.
Little Pantano was fished every day for 30 d from
June 13 to July 12, 2004. Two anglers fished from a
single boat for 4 h daily (presented as 1 boat-day of
effort), ending approximately 30 min before dusk. The
same lake was then fished for 8 d in early August and 3
d in early September. Captured fish were brought to the
boat and held in a large bin that contained a small
amount of water; tag and length data were then
collected. Fish were placed into a small recovery bin
beside the boat; and within an hour, they were moved
into one of two large net-pens, where they were kept
overnight. This was done to control for delayed
hooking mortality.
Big Pantano and three other nearby lakes were
subjected to very low angler effort (Table 1). This was
done so that we could measure if seasonal changes in
catchability had occurred independent of angling
pressure. The lakes were fished once per month for a
2-h period by each angler; anglers used the same gear
that was used to fish in Little Pantano. These fishing
events were organized to coincide with the start and
end of the 30-d period on Little Pantano and the August
and September visits to that lake. All the lakes in our
study were accessible to anglers on foot only, which
limited the risk of angling pressure by other parties.
During the entire summer, we witnessed only a single
hike-in party of two individuals on Lakes Today and
Stubby; this observation is included in the Table 1
angler effort.
Analysis of catch data.—The main goal of our
experiment was to test for learned hook avoidance by
fish in recreational fisheries. However, there are at least
three mechanisms that may independently affect catch
rates over the fishing season: (1) growth of individuals
into more vulnerable size-classes (Cox 2000; Parkinson
et al. 2004), (2) environmental and/or ecological
factors (e.g., changes in temperature or insect activity)
that affect foraging behavior (van Poorten and Post
2005), and (3) apparent mortality, w hich is the
summation of death and tag loss in mark–recaptures.
Each of these factors must be incorporated into our
experimental design.
We have explicitly incorporated size into the
probability of capture, because the size-dependence
of vulnerability to angling is well known (Cox 2000;
van Poorten and Post 2005). The relative vulnerability
(v) is assumed to be a sigmoid function of fish length l,
and is expressed as
¼ p
þ L
; ð1Þ
where p
is the maximum vulnerability for large
fish, L
is the length at which fish are at 50% of full
vulnerability, and m is the slope at that point. To scale
v to the relative vulnerability for an individual, p
set to 1. The individual vulnerability model was fit to
the proportion of marked fish recovered per 1-cm
size-group in the first 5 d of the fishing experiment on
Little Pantano. These parameters were then fixed for
fitting the model to capture histories as described
A problem exists where environmental effects on
catchability occur simultaneously with learned hook
avoidance and their effects may be difficult to separate.
We therefore divided our angling experiment into two
parts: (1) a set of lightly fished lakes to assess the
seasonal trend in catchability and (2) a single, intensely
fished lake to assess fish learning. This approach
allowed us to first test whether a purely seasonal trend
in catchability exists. Existence of such a trend would
allow us to incorporate it into the multiple mark–
recapture efforts on Little Pantano and to isolate
learning effects from environmental effects on catch-
The effort on our four lightly fished lakes was very
low (Table 1), so that a negligible proportion of the fish
population had encountered an angling experience at
any given time. Thus, any changes in catchability over
time were because of temporal changes in environ-
mental or ecological factors. Let d be a parameter to
describe the seasonal environmental influence on catch
rates. It could be simply a function of temperature or a
function of multiple environmental factors, which can
be modeled as a function of time:
¼ f ðtÞ: ð2Þ
Thus, the expected catch rate EC
for angler i on lake l
can be modeled as the seasonal average catch rate for
1022 ASKEY ET A L.
angler i on lake l (l
) modified by the seasonality
¼ ld
: ð3Þ
The incorporation of the l parameter puts all lakes on a
relative scale, because we are interested in the relative
change in catch rates over the season. Our results are
not sensitive to differences in absolute catchability,
which vary between lakes because of fish density or
lake characteristics. This time- or temperature-depen-
dent expected catch rate is incorporated into the
Poisson log-likelihood function (LL) of a single
observed catch (C)as
; d
The maximum likelihood for the entire data set of
observed catches given a seasonality effect is
; dÞ: ð5Þ
We maximized this likelihood for the catch data, where
d was a function of time or temperature. We omitted
fish from the catch data that would not have been
vulnerable (,150 mm) on day 1 to control for
recruitment of catchable fish over the season. Estimates
for d on days not fished was estimated by linear
interpolation. As a result, for any given day of the
season, the baseline catchability could be adjusted by
multiplying by the estimated d.
Individual catchability analysis.—Suppose I fish are
marked on day 0 and released into a lake. On N
occasions, the fish are recaptured. The first N-1
recaptures are by angling and the last recapture is by
net. The day of recapture n is denoted t
. Let x
¼ 1if
fish i (i ¼ 1toI) is recaptured on day t
, and x
¼ 0if
the fish is not recaptured. Let X be the N by I matrix
describing the recapture data.
Now consider a single fish. Let c
be the probability
the fish is caught during recapture day n (we will
consider c
in more detail below). Let s
be the
probability that the fish survives to time of the nth
recapture, given that it was alive at the time of the (n
1)th recapture. If the fish experiences a time-indepen-
dent instantaneous mortality rate m(t) at time t, then the
survival probabilities can be calculated using
Þ if n ¼ 1
ÞÞ if n . 1
The probability of observing the N recapture data
associated with a single fish, given the probabilities of
recapture and survival, is
; ::: x
::: c
; s
::: s
þð1 x
Þð1 c
Þ if l ¼ N
þð1 x
Þð1 c
if l , N
ð1 s
ð1 c
Þþ P
ð1 c
where l is the last recapture (i.e., x
¼ 0 for all n . l). If
the fish is never recaught, l ¼ 0. Assuming the fish
recaptures are independent, the probability of observ-
ing all the data X is the product of the above
probability for all fish. The log-likelihood function
(LL) is log
[Pr(X)], which is incorporated into our
model selection criteria, Akaike’s information criterion
(AIC), as
AIC ¼2LL þ 2k; ð8Þ
where k is the number of estimated parameters in the
model. Akaike’s information criterion values are used
to select the most parsimonious model by penalizing
the model fit (LL) by the number of parameters used.
Thus, the optimal models possess the minimal AIC
values and the relative parsimony of other models is
evaluated by the differences between AIC values,
DAIC (Burnham and Anderson 2002; Richards 2005).
We used AIC to test a suite of biologically plausible
models that may describe temporal patterns in catch
rates. A null model describes catchability as a constant
or dependent on environmental factors; however, we
incorporated two additional reasons for decreased catch
rates: (1) learned hook avoidance and (2) heterogeneity
in intrinsic catchability. To incorporate these factors,
the probability of capture (c) for a single fish is
manipulated. The probability of capture is actually a
composite of several factors, expressed as
¼ 1 e
; ð9Þ
where c is the probability of capture on day n, q is the
catchability coefficient (area swept per angler per unit
time), E is the effort (angler time per area), and v
accounts for the size selectivity of fishing gear
(equation 1).
For a given effort and length on day t, the probability
of capture for an individual depends on the catchability
coefficient (q). In the simplest case, catchability is
q ¼ q
: ð10Þ
However, q may be dependent on the number of times
an individual fish has been captured previously
(denoted tc)
q ¼ q
: ð11Þ
A potentially more parsimonious version of this idea is
to describe q as a cont inuous function of times
previously caught
q ¼ f ðtcÞ: ð12Þ
Since catchability cannot be negative, a logical
function is the negative exponential,
q ¼ q
; ð13Þ
where q
is the catchability for fish that have never
been captured and b is a parameter that describes the
decline in catchability for an individual fish that has
been previously captured. The above models were then
substituted into equation (9) for capture probability.
A second possibility is that heterogeneity in q occurs
within the population because individual fis h are
intrinsically more or less catchable regardless of their
capture history. This could arise from behavioral
differences in foraging activity or diet preference. To
model this scenario, we assume the existence of
discrete fish classes (Pledger et al. 2003), each with
its own catchability parameters. Each individual has an
unknown probability p
of being in class i. We return to
equation (7) for the probability of an individual fish
capture history and sum the Prob(x
1. . .N
1. . .N
1. . .N
) 3
Prob(class ¼ i) over all possible fish classes. We tested
the simple case of two fish classes with unknown
proportions (p and 1 p) in each class, which leaves
the following probability:
1::: N
; s
1::: N
; pÞ
¼ p 3 Prðx
1::: N
; s
1::: N
þð1 pÞ 3 Prðx
1::: N
; s
1::: N
We tested another set of models that incorporated the
existence of two classes of fish and catchability based
on capture history.
The final data set for model selection was a matrix of
157 fish (two hooking mortalities were omitted) and 43
capture events with 1 or 0 values. The final capture
event was fall gillnetting, which was used to confirm
survival for the captured fish and estimate abundance
as mentioned above. A second matrix of equal
dimensions was created by using individual fish fork
lengths. Lengths on days when fish were not measured
were estimated using linear interpolation.
Size Selectivity
The proportion of marked fish captured in the first 5
d of fishing varied with mean length (1-cm size bins).
The maxi mum likelihood fit of the size -selective
vulnerability function yielded parameter estimates of
m ¼ 7.95 and L
¼ 211.4 (Figure 1), which are similar
to the parameter values found in other studies of
rainbow trout (Cox 2000; van Poorten 2003). The
estimated parameters confirmed that all individually
tagged fish were vulnerable to angling (minimum size
¼ 150 mm), although they had not reached a fully
vulnerable size (i.e., 0 , v , 1). These parameter
estimates were set as constants in the model selection
Seasonal Trends in Catch per Unit Effort
On our four control lakes, the catch rates for fish that
were vulnerable to capture since day 1 showed a
decreasing trend (Figure 2). The trend was not
temperature driven; catch rates did not recover in the
fall when water temperatures decrease. A temperature-
driven model fit the data poorly (LL ¼104.75). We
chose to describe the trend with a four-parameter, time-
dependent model that fit a mean catch rate adjustment
for each fishing period (LL ¼92.43). The data could
be described by a simple linear decrease, but the goal
FIGURE 1.—The relationship between rainbow trout fork
length and vulnerability to experimental angling in British
Columbia lakes during 2004. Size of the points is proportional
to number of marked fish within the 10-mm size bin (smallest
point ¼ 1; largest point ¼ 57). Solid line is the maximum
likelihood fit of equation (1), where data and model have been
scaled so that the maximum vulnerability for large fish is 1.
was to fit the seasonal fluctuations as accurately as
possible to create a baseline for the mark–recapture
Little Pantano Catch per Unit Effort
Catch rates were initially quite high on Little
Pantano: approximately 16 tagged fish/boat-day were
caught for the first 5 d (Figure 3a). However, the CPUE
declined rapidly to approximately 5 tagged fish/boat-
day by day 15 and remained low for the rest of the 30-d
trial. Catch rates for the tagged fish remained low when
fishing resumed after a break of 23 d.
In addition to the tagged fish, the lake also contained
fin-clipped fish that were initially too small to be fished
but recruited into vulnerable size-classes as they grew.
These fish became more prevalent in the catch over
time and made up most of the catch in the second half
of the summer, after the break (Figure 3b). Continual
recruitment throughout the summer of the small, batch-
marked fish prevented a dramatic drop in catch rates
for the overall population (Figure 3c).
Our mark–recapture data indicated that we recap-
tured 51.6% of fish larger than 180 mm (all tagged fish
were in this size range) after angling had ceased. We
used fyke nets and gill nets for the recapture; given the
netting efficiency, we estimated 41% of the fish tagged
on day 0 remained present with tags at the end of the
experiment. There were three processes by which fish
were removed from the experiment: (1) hooking
mortality, (2) natural mortality, and (3) tag loss.
Hooking mortality was estimated based on observation
of deaths within the 24-h recovery bins. There were
nine mortalities from hooking injuries; however, only 2
were from the 159 fish marked on day 0. Fourteen fish
with visible tag scars were captured in gill nets, which
gives an estimated tag loss of 30%. These fish are
considered mortalities in the data analysis, because no
information can be collected from them (post tag loss).
Thus ‘‘ mortality’’ estimates in model fitting (Table 2)
include tag loss and death during the season. Tag loss
was not a problem for the fitting of individual capture
histories; only seven fish with tag scars were caught,
and all such captures occurred from day 54 on.
Individual Catchability and Model Selection
The first set of models that were fit to the data set of
individual capture histories, focused on the potential
influence of learned hook avoidance by varying
catchability with previous capture experience. The
DAIC values suggested that the abrupt drop in catch
rates could not be described by a constant catchability
adjusted for seasonal effects (Table 2; Figure 4).
FIGURE 2.—Standardized rainbow trout CPUE (CPUE 3
mean CPUE
; CPUE in units of fish per angler-hour) for four
lakes in British Columbia subjected to low angling effort over
the summer (day 1 ¼ June 13, 2004; black filled circles ¼ Big
Pantano Lake, open circles ¼ Lake Today, open triangles ¼
Lake Stubby, diamonds ¼ Spook Lake). The black line is the
best-fit model for the seasonal trend (d).
FIGURE 3.—Rainbow trout catch rates (CPUE in fish/boat-
day) in Little Pantano Lake, British Columbia, over the entire
fishing period (June 13–September 3, 2004). The top panel
shows catch rates for fish that were tagable from day 1
(minimum size ¼ 180 mm). The middle panel shows catch
rates for batch-clipped fish that were too small to individually
tag and that were essentially invulnerable to angling on day 0.
These fish recruited into the fishery by growth. The bottom
panel shows catch rates for all fish present. One boat-day
equals two anglers fishing for 4 h from a single boat.
Models that incorporated experience-dependent catch-
ability models were found to be more parsimonious
(Table 2). The parameter estimates indicated that fish
became less catchable if they had been previously
captured. Furthermore, when specific catchabilities
were fitted to the model for capture history, it was
found that fish catchability continued to decrease with
additional capture experiences. Model 5 had the
optimal fit and depicted catchability as a negative
exponential function of times caught. However, none
of the models that were based on learned hook
avoidance alone were flexible enough to mimic the
sharp initial decrease in catch rates seen in the data
(Figure 4). All models that were based on a single class
of fish underestimated the catch rates seen in the
beginning of the angling experiment
Simply dividing the population into two classes
(with regards to intrinsic catchability) is not helpful, as
model fitting produced equal catchabilities between
classes (q
¼ q
) or the existence of a single class (p ¼
1). However, models that incorporated learning with
heterogeneity in catchabilities were able to better fit the
trend seen in the catch data. The most parsimonious
model separated the population into two classes based
on intrinsic catchability and both classes exhibited the
same learned hook avoidance function (Table 2; Figure
4). The parameter estimates for this model indicated
that about 32% (p ¼ 0.322) of the entire population
were highly catchable fish that quickly learned to avoid
hooks. Model fitting sugg ested that both classes
learned at a similar rate; a sixth parameter (b
) was
not justified (DAIC ¼ 0.7; Table 2). The change in AIC
from the best-fit model to the next best single-class
model was greater than 20, which indicates that the
model including heterogeneous intrinsic catchability is
substantially better than the learning-only model
(Burnham and Anderson 2002; Richards 2005).
TABLE 2.—Summary of rainbow trout catchability models tested, including associated parameter values and fitting
performance. Parameters and abbreviations are as follows: qa ¼ catchability coefficient for class a; qb ¼ catchability coefficient
for class b; tc ¼ times caught previously; ba and bb are slope parameters; l ¼ catch rate; p ¼ probability of being in class i; k ¼
number of estimated parameters; LL ¼ log likelihood; AIC ¼ Akaike’s information criterion; DAIC ¼ difference in AIC between
the given model and the model with the lowest AIC value.
Model specification
Model number Equation Description
1 q
¼ q Constant q
2 q
¼ q
q changes after first capture event
3 q
¼ q
q changes for capture events 1 and 2
4 q
¼ q
q changes for capture events 1–3
5 q
¼ q
3 e
q is a continuous function of times caught
6 q
qa class ¼ a
qb class ¼ b
Two classes of fish with constan t qs
7 q
3 e
3 tcÞ
class ¼ a
0 class ¼ b
Continuous learning with an invulnerable class
8 q
3 e
ðb 3 tcÞ
class ¼ a
3 e
ðb 3 tcÞ
class ¼ b
Two classes of fish with continuous learning
9 q
3 e
ðba 3 tcÞ
class ¼ a
3 e
ðbb 3 tcÞ
class ¼ b
Two classes with independent learning parameters
FIGURE 4.—Model fits of empirical rainbow trout catch data
for Little Pantano Lake, British Columbia, which contained
157 fish tagged on day 0 of an angling experiment in 2004.
The dashed line is model 1 (see Table 2) based on the simple
case of constant catchability adjusted for seasonal effects. The
solid gray line is model 5, where catchability is a negative
exponential function of the number of times a fish has been
caught previously. The solid black line is model 8, which
incorporates learning and two classes of fish within the
population that differ in their intrinsic catchability. Seasonal
effects (d) are incorporated into all models as depicted in
Figure 2, and jaggedness of lines represents variability in
There have been many hypotheses put forth to
explain seasonal decreases in recreational fishery catch
rates. Our study shows that, indeed, several compo-
nents explain this phenomenon, including learned hook
avoidance, heterogeneity among individual fish, and
environmental factors. The culmination of these
components led to a sharp decrease in daily catches
from 16 to 4 fish (tagged individuals) within 30 d of
intensive catch-and-release angling.
Learned hook avo idance was a key component
needed to explain the large data set of individual
capture histories. Our study supports previous studies
that have reported the poten tial for learned hook
avoidance in fished populations. Similar evidence in
studies of other sport fish (Anderson and Heman 1969;
Beukema 1970; Hackney and Linkous 1978) indicates
that learned hook avoidance is not restricted to rainbow
trout. However, only some of the largemouth bass
Micropterus salmoides experimental groups exhibited
learning (Anderson and Heman 1969; Hackney and
Linkous 1978). Furthermore, Tsuboi and Morita (2004)
found no evidence of learning among whitespotted char
Salvelinus leucomaenis in a Japanese stream, and
cutthroat trout O. clarkii in Yellowstone River were
estimated to be captured 9.7 times per season (Schill et
al. 1986). This suggests that differences in learning and/
or habitats may make some species more suited for
catch-and-release management than others. Previous
work has demonstrated differences in catchability
among species and s trains owing to variation in
behavior (e.g., Brauhn and Kincaid 1982; Dwyer
1990). It seems plausible that conditioning should vary
because of species-specific behavioral characteristics as
well. The lack of learning behavior demonstrated by
whitespotted char in Japan and cutthroat trout in the
Yellowstone River could also be a result of the lotic
environment. For example, the nature in which food is
presented in a stream necessitates a rapid response by
the fish or the food will be lost downstream. Therefore,
fish cannot examine and potentially reject their prey to
the same degree possible in a lake. However, disturbed
or angled fish in New Zealand streams were found to
exhibit other conditioned behaviors, such as hiding, that
would prevent their capture (Young and Hayes 2004).
Learned hook avoidance was only part of the process
suggested to explain seasonality in catch rates. It was
only possible to fit the sharp initial decline in catch
rates if intrinsic differences in fish were also taken into
account. It seems plausible that some proportion of fish
populations should be less vulnerable to angling
because of factors such as highly selective diets. Cox
and Walters (2002) proposed that some proportion of
the population is unavailable to angling due to spatial
distribution in unfishable areas. Our experimental lake
was small and relatively shallow so that the entire lake
could be fished effectively. However, our data
supported a similar hypothesis, whereby, a proportion
of the fish are highly susceptible to angling but quickly
learn to avoid hooks. Martin (1958) originally
proposed that pop ulations may contain a more
catchable group of fish that would be quickly
harvested. Yet we have shown that even when fish
are not harvested, the same decline in CPUE will occur
because of a more catchable group that exhibits
learning. This result indicates that lakes exposed to
TABLE 2.—Extended.
Model specification Parameters Fit and selection
Model number l qa
p qb b
1 0.011 0.047 0.047 0.047 0.047 1 2 749.2 1,502.3 33.0
2 0.011 0.059 0.037 0.037 0.037 1 3 745.5 1,497.1 27.8
3 0.011 0.059 0.046 0.023 0.023 1 4 742.7 1,493.5 24.2
4 0.011 0.059 0.046 0.024 0.021 1 5 742.7 1,495.5 26.2
5 0.011 0.061 1 0.375 3 743.0 1,492.0 22.7
6 0.011 0.047 0.500 0.047 4 749.2 1,506.3 37.0
7 0.010 0.101 0.747 0 0.714 4 737.6 1,483.3 14.0
8 0.009 0.299 0.322 0.030 1.125 1.125 5 729.9 1,469.3 0.0
9 0.009 0.382 0.265 0.033 1.126 0.550 6 729.0 1,470.0 0.7
fishing for the first time are likely to exhibit a short
period of exceptional angling that is rapidly reduced to
average catch rates, regardless of bag-limit regulations.
Catch rates may continue to decline with continued
pressure; however, the decline is much slower after the
original ‘‘ fishdown’’ period.
The dramatic drop in catch rates of tagged fish seen
in our experiment may have been more extreme than
would be typical in nature. Our protocol of retaining
fish in net pens to control for hooking mortality may
also have stressed fish and changed their behavior.
Given our data, we cannot separate the relative effect of
stress in net pens from the stress incurred during
capture. It was also apparent that catch rates were
affected by recruitment of fish that had grown over the
summer. However, if effort is sustained over the
summer, it seems likely that growth recruitment will
only prevent further declines after the abrupt fishdown
early in the season. We may have exaggerated the
learning ability of fish by only using two fly patterns
for all angling. Presumably we could have continued to
entice strikes if we would have changed to new
patterns that the fish had not previously seen. However,
fish probably take some cues from characteristics
common to all lures (e.g., visible hooks or fishing line).
Lastly, a small part of the decline in catch rates was
fishery independent; catch rates were found to decline
in the lightly fished lakes. Thus, other geographical
regions that have different climatic patterns and fish
species may experience different seasonal trends.
As angling effort continues to increase in many
fishing areas, managers are challenged to produce
quality angling opportunities. Trophy fisheries are
normally managed by high minimum size limits or
catch-and-release regulations. However, as demand and
effort on such fisheries increases, even catch-and-
release fisheries can produce relatively low catch rates.
This result was previously suggested based on hooking
mortality and illegal harvest (Post et al. 2002, 2003).
However, hooking mortality and illegal harvest are
potentially lowered through management actions other
than effort control. Low catch rates due to learning
limit management strategies to: (1) finding strains of
fish that have high catchability, low hooking mortality,
and exhibit poor learning ability; or (2) effort control.
Managers are faced with the difficult notion that if they
are successful in generating license sales, they will not
be able to maintain angling quality by simply setting
restrictive bag limits, size limits, or even by imple-
menting catch-and-release regulations.
We thank Chris Dormer and Bobby Beddingfield,
who worked as field assistants and angled many hours
experiment. Thanks to David Obrien and Nathan
Taylor, who helped with field work, especially the
construction of the fence in Pantano Lake. Carl Walters
provided useful comments on an earlier version of the
manuscript. Critique from the associate editor and three
anonymous reviewers further improved this manu-
script. Financial support was provided by the British
Columbia Ministry of Environment and British Co-
lumbia Freshwater Fisheries Society to E.A.P. and by a
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
Discovery Grant to J.R.P.
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... Although the increases in catch could be a reflection of angler effort and demands, especially for C. ignobilis, this information may also reveal an increased sensitivity of some species to fishing pressure (Post et al., 2002). Indeed, some declines in catch rates in fisheries may be related to conditioned hook avoidance due to, not only effort, but individual, e.g., boldness tendencies, and species-specific behavioral characteristics, e.g., feeding strategies (Askey et al., 2006;Alós et al., 2015;Klefoth et al., 2017;Lennox et al., 2017a). It should be noted and cautioned that although the number of C. ignobilis caught increased substantially across seasons, fish populations have been documented to exhibit hyperstability, in which catch per unit effort remains stable or increases as true abundances decline (Hilborn and Walters 1992). ...
... In particular, C. ignobilis are often reported to be increasingly timid and more difficult to catch than in prior years, before intensive fishing pressure occurred. As C. ignobilis C&R fishing operations continue to expand to neighboring, lesser-pressured Outer Islands (e.g., Cosmoledo, Farquhar, Astove, Providence), initial exceptionally high catch rates may lead to severe declines in catchability, followed by a continued slow decline, as observed in other fisheries (van Poorten and Post 2005;Askey et al., 2006). Considering C. ignobilis is currently the main species of interest for visiting anglers to Alphonse Group, there are new questions emerging about best practices and angling capacity for the fishery as a whole (e.g., limits on angler numbers, closures and/or cycling fishing locations) and general concern about the sustainability of the fishery into the future. ...
Recreational fishing is a growing sector of tourism, and in theory, can be done in a sustainable manner such as through catch-and-release where fish are released rather than harvested. In some cases, stakeholders have taken the initiative to develop conservation strategies and management guidelines, as well as establishing monitoring programs of the resources they use. In this work, we provide a case study of a cooperative monitoring program in the Alphonse Group, Republic of the Seychelles, Africa, between a fishing company (Alphonse Fishing Company) and a local non-governmental organization (Island Conservation Society). These efforts have resulted in a code of conduct for the catch-and-release of target species, as well as long-term spatially explicit monitoring of catches, including fish size and catch location for five popular species through catch logs. During three seasons, the five key fish species monitored were giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis, n = 684), moustache triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens, n = 141), Indo-Pacific permit (Trachinotus blochii, n = 99), milkfish (Chanos chanos, n = 55), and yellowmargin triggerfish (Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus, n = 46). We found monthly catch variability across all species and that catches across seasons increased for C. ignobilis (203.8%), T. blochii (45.5%), and B. viridescens (25%), and decreased for C. chanos (-65.6%) and P. flavimarginatus (-10%). Although there are considerations with implementing and maintaining such initiatives, we reviewed the benefits, including how these efforts can serve as the foundation for more thorough scientific research, co-production, and evidence-based management for the most sought-after species, C. ignobilis. We highlight how these cooperative initiatives may lead to formal co-management structures in recreational fishing, and also help to build capacity in government agencies for advancing economic prosperity while establishing sound long-term management and conservation strategies.
... Learned hook avoidance has been suggested as a cause for reduced angler catch rates of several fish species. The catch rates of Rainbow Trout in five small lakes in British Columbia declined within 7-10 days under sustained fishing effort of catch-and-release fishing (Askey et al., 2006). Modeling results suggested that the highly catchable Rainbow Trout were quickly caught and then learned to avoid hooks. ...
... Rock Bass (Ambloplites rupestris) were found to alter their behavior to avoid capture in response to exposure to fishing gear during a 7-day laboratory experiment (Fedele, 2017). Askey et al. (2006) believed that lakes exposed to fishing for the first time exhibit a short period of excellent angling that is followed by lower average catch rates, regardless of regulations. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to repeat this study to see if a similar outcome (i.e., reduced catch rates) would occur, but the fact that catches dropped after each stocking indicates a similar outcome can be expected. ...
Hatcheries are frequently called upon to produce catchable-sized fish for stocking community fishing ponds. Desirable attributes of fish selected for stocking into community ponds are that they are easy to produce in a hatchery system to sizes anglers are interested in catching and they provide anglers with high catch rates once stocked. Hybrid sunfish [male Bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) × female Green Sunfish (L. cyanellus)] have attributes that potentially make them attractive for use in community fishing ponds. We assessed initial angler catch rates of 100 stocked hybrid sunfish in a 0.12-ha hatchery pond and after being subjected to angling (four, 1-hr catch-and-release fishing events with five anglers). We also investigated whether catch rates would change following a supplemental stocking of an additional 100 hybrid sunfish (four, 1-hr catch-and-release fishing events with five anglers). The anal fin of each fish in the second stocking was hole punched to differentiate them from those of the first stocking and fish caught by anglers were hole punched in the caudal fin each time they were caught before being released back into the pond. Angler catch rates were highest during initial fishing events that followed stocking (9.2 fish/angler hr and 18.0 fish/angler hr) and substantially declined in subsequent events (≤3.4 fish/angler hr). Catches of the newly stocked fish and previously stocked fish contributed to the high catch following the supplemental stocking. Most (80 %) of the fish were caught in the first 30 min of each event and 45 % were caught during the first 10 min. Anglers were able to catch 88 % of the fish from the first stocking and 67 % from the second stocking at least once. No mortality occurred during the study as all fish were recovered when the pond was drained. Our results suggest that hybrid sunfish will potentially provide high initial catch rates following stocking into community ponds, but managers should expect reduced catch rates following initial fishing even without harvest. Additional stocking will be needed to provide periodic increases in angler catch rates even without harvest.
... Ultimately, regardless of the GT fishery in question, anglers should adopt or continue to use best handling practices, e.g., minimizing air exposure and handling time (Brownscombe et al., 2017;Casselman, 2005). This may be especially critical for C&R fisheries since excessive fishing pressure can induce "timidity" (see Arlinghaus et al., 2017) and lead to learned hook avoidance with declines in catch (Askey et al., 2006;Fernö and Huse, 1983;Klefoth et al., 2012). Considering GT wariness has been reported within the Alphonse Island Group (Griffin et al., 2021) and best handling practices have already been strictly enforced (e.g., barbless hooks, minimizing fight times, air exposure, and handling time) and that this study suggests high survival rates are expected, learned hook avoidance by GT may be occurring. ...
Giant trevally (Caranx ignobilis, GT) are growing in popularity as a target for tourism-based recreational fisheries throughout their range in the Indo-Pacific. Although predominately catch-and-release (C&R), to date there is no species-specific scientific evidence to support capture and handling guidelines. As such, we examined how GT caught via fly fishing gear while in shallow water responded to capture and handling in the Alphonse Island Group, Republic of the Seychelles. Specifically, we evaluated the physical injury for GTs captured via fly fishing gear, as well as their reflex impairment and post-release activity (using tri-axial accelerometer biologgers) following three air exposure treatments (0 s, 15 s, 30 s). We also had a reference treatment where GTs were caught and landed quickly via a handline, and not exposed to air (0 s) prior to release. Hooking location for both gear types was predominately the jaw or corner of the mouth (fly fishing, n = 30; 83.3%; handline; n = 12, 85.7%), but one fish hooked in a critical location for each capture gear. Across all treatments, only one fish (2%) in the handline treatment was considered a potential short-term post-release mortality following being deeply hooked in the gills and subsequently losing equilibrium upon release. GT reflex impairment and overall post-release activity measured via overall dynamic body acceleration were not influenced by fight time and air exposure treatments used in our study. For GTs across all treatments, locomotor activity was lower in the initial minutes following release than during the second half of the ten minute monitoring period. Overall, our study suggests that GTs in the Alphonse Island Group are resilient to being caught via fly fishing, handled, and air exposed for up to 30 s. However, given the diversity of angling locations for GTs (e.g., shallow flats, deeper reefs) and gear types (e.g., conventional tackle, lures with several treble hooks), additional assessments are needed to help act as the foundation for more universal best practices that can inform management plans for GT recreational fisheries.
... Angling vulnerability has been shown to decrease for some species in relation to increased exposure to angling tactics over time suggesting learning behavior and lure avoidance [27,[44][45][46][47][48]. We hypothesized that similar effects would influence walleye and muskellunge; as a larger proportion of the population is caught and released over the annual season, catch rates and angler trip success may decline due to learned avoidance behaviors. ...
Full-text available
Angler trip success and catch rates are dependent upon a fishes’ vulnerability to angling. Angling vulnerability can be influenced by angler-specific attributes (i.e., bait choice, lure size, use of a guide), and individual fish traits (i.e., boldness, aggression, stress responsiveness, and memory retention). The mechanisms that function in a fishes’ angling vulnerability, and contribute to catch rate, are likely correlated with environmental factors however, the influence of environmental factors on angling vulnerability are not well understood. We used the long-term (1946 –present) compulsory creel dataset from Escanaba Lake, WI, USA to test for interactions between angling vulnerability (i.e., angler trip success and catch rates) and environmental factors to better understand these dynamics in recreational fisheries. Our objective was to test for the influence of angler associated variables and environmental factors on open water angler trip success (i.e., catch one fish) and catch rate of walleye Sander vitreus and muskellunge Esox masquinongy during 2003–2015 using a hurdle model approach. Fishing trip success and catch rates for both species were most strongly influenced by angler-related variables (i.e., guide status, bait type, the proportion of the fish population previously caught). Environmental factors associated with lower light intensity (i.e., diel period, mean daily solar radiation, solar-Julian day interaction) had a positive influence on walleye vulnerability. Lower air temperatures and lunar position (moon overhead or underfoot) and phase (gibbous’ and full moon) also had a positive effect on walleye angling. Muskellunge trip success and catch rate were positively influenced by light metrics (i.e., diel period and mean daily solar radiation) and increased with air temperature. Lunar variables (position and phase), as well as wind speed and direction also influenced muskellunge angling vulnerability. A better understanding of the influence of environmental factors on angling vulnerability is an important component of fisheries management as management goals focus on balancing fish populations and creating satisfactory catch rates to enhance the angling experience. Our results suggest that angler-specific variables, light, temperature, lunar, and weather conditions influenced species-specific angling vulnerability for walleye and muskellunge.
... They found low preferences for caught and released which modified anglers' perception of fishing quality. For Askey et al. (2006), C&R fisheries could exhibit poor angling quality if angler effort is sufficiently high. Their results indicates that catch rates may decline because of high effort even when the number of fish remains constant. ...
Catch-and-release (C&R) could be an interesting management tool in recreational fisheries as long as mortality remains low and the anglers’ well-being does not drop. We used a choice experiment to examine the potential of C&R angling as a monitoring tool for the salmon recreational fishery in Brittany (France) in summer 2017. Anglers were asked to choose between hypothetical fishing day trips differing in terms of their combination of relevant attributes and levels and distance to travel. From the analysis of respondents’ trade-offs between the fishing trip’s attributes, willingness-to-pay was estimated for each level of attribute. Our results show that anglers prefer unrestrictive regulations. On average, we observe that C&R has a depressive effect on the valuation of the fishing day. However, some socioeconomic groups positively value C&R. All in all, the majority of the anglers nonetheless hold a positive valuation of a C&R fishing day, which could therefore be used to generate economic returns for the river once the total admissible capture (TAC) is reached. Lastly, the fishing season, and especially the level of river use, impacts more on the value of fishing than C&R.
... Angling vulnerability has been shown to decrease for some species in relation to increased exposure to angling tactics over time suggesting learning behavior and lure avoidance [27,[44][45][46][47][48]. We hypothesized that similar effects would influence walleye and muskellunge; as a larger proportion of the population is caught and released over the annual season, catch rates and angler trip success may decline due to learned avoidance behaviors. ...
Conference Paper
Angler experience has suggested that environmental factors (season, lunar phase, wind direction) effect trip success and catch rates. Most studies have focused on whether lunar cycles effect catch rates, with limited information on the effects of other environmental factors. Our objective was to test for the influence of multiple environmental factors on angler trip success and total catch of walleye Sander vitreus and muskellunge Esox masquinongy using information from the compulsory creel dataset available at Escanaba Lake, Wisconsin during 2003 – 2015. Angler and species specific variables included effort (hours/trip), bait type (live or artificial), guide status (guided or not), target species, and adult fish density (walleye or muskellunge). Daily environmental factors included barometric pressure change, change in water temperature, peak wind direction, mean solar radiation and lunar phase. Trip specific variables (recorded hourly) included mean air temperature, mean wind speed, diel period (dawn, day, dusk), and lunar position (overhead, underfoot, neither). Hurdle models were used to test whether environmental factors influenced trip success or total catch. We evaluated all angling trips combined (incorporating incidental catch) and trips that were targeting only the species of interest. Trip success and total catch for both species were most strongly influenced by angler specific variables (effort, guide status, bait type, target species). Walleye trip success was also influenced by diel period, lunar phase, mean solar intensity, and wind direction. Walleye total catch was influenced by diel period, mean air temperature, mean solar intensity, wind speed and wind direction. Muskellunge trip success was primarily influenced by angler specific variables but also solar intensity. Muskellunge total catch was influenced by diel period, mean wind speed, mean solar radiation, and lunar position. Angler trip success and total catch influence angler satisfaction thus, understanding variables that influence these factors is an important objective of recreational fisheries management.
... Populations of fish frequently contain individuals with varying vulnerability to angling or aggressiveness (Philipp et al., 2009;Sutter et al., 2012;Villegas-Ríos et al., 2018). Askey et al. (2006) experimentally demonstrated a similar phenomenon with a population of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), finding declines in catch per unit effort of tagged fish by dividing the population into two classes based on different intrinsic catchabilities and incorporating a "learned hook avoidance function". Cox and Walters (2002) modelled catchability dynamics by assuming two pools of fish: available and unavailable to capture (with the possibility of moving from one state to the other due to factors such as learned hook avoidance). ...
In some fisheries, releases are a high percentage of total catch. Recent tagging data of marine fishes have revealed that recapture of the same individual multiple times occurs frequently. We investigated the magnitude of this phenomenon and its effect on survival using previously collected mark-recapture data of four reef-associated species. We used Cox proportional hazard regression models to examine whether survival varied with release number. For three of four species, survival was significantly higher after the second, third, and/or fourth release as compared to the first release, perhaps resulting from selection for robust individuals. Repetitive recapture implies that the estimated number of unique released fish is biased. Increased survival following later releases as compared to the initial release suggests that the number of dead discards may be similarly overestimated. We analysed the sensitivity of stock assessment results to reduced estimates of dead discards using two of our species that had recently been assessed. We found that reduced estimates of dead discards had a modest effect on assessment results but could nonetheless affect the perception of fishery status. Our findings highlight the need to revise current practices for estimating live and dead discards, either internal or external to stock assessment models.
In recreational fisheries, fish often undergo catch-and-release angling, which can lead to an indirect selection response of the behavioral traits of the fish. As individuals experience high-intensity angling activities, individuals learn to avoid being selected for artificial bait again, resulting in a change in the vulnerability to angling of fish, which is partly dependent on the cognitive learning ability of the fish. Here, we examined the relationship between vulnerability to angling and learning in juvenile crucian carp (Carassius auratus) under laboratory conditions. Our study had six angling treatments with each containing different group mates (i.e., the angling stress group, all fish that only experienced repeated angling stress practice for a period of three days; the learning group, all fish that only observed individual in the angling stress group to be angled; the control group, all fish that did not undergo any angling or learning; the mixed Group 1, fish are from the control and learning groups; the mixed Group 2, fish are from the control and angling stress groups; the mixed Group 3, fish are from the learning and angling stress groups), each of which consisted of five replicates). All fish were tested for boldness before and after the previous experiences (i.e., angling stress or learning) test. Our results showed that for the stress group, the total angling time, mean individual angling time and total number of bait touches all increased from Day 1 to Day 3, and the total angling rate decreased during the three days of the angling stress practice. After encountering the previous experiences, fish in the control, stress and learning groups all had increased boldness, as assessed by a shortened percent latency to emerge from the refuge. The change in the percent latency of boldness was higher in the stress group than in the learning group, with the control group being intermediate. Furthermore, no differences in the total angling time and total number of bait touches were detected among the six angling treatments, but the stress group exhibited the longest mean individual angling time and lowest angling rate compared with the other five angling treatments, indicating that angling-stressed individuals greatly decreased their vulnerability to angling after the previous angling stress. Our results show that changes in the vulnerability of crucian carp to angling were related to previous individual angling experience but not to visual social learning.
Growing interest in apps to collect recreational-fisheries data requires that relationships between self-reported data and other fisheries data are evaluated, and that potential biases are assessed. This study compared results from a mobile-phone application and website for anglers (MyCatch) to results from three types of fisheries surveys – 1 provincial-level mail survey, 2 creel, and 17 gillnet surveys. Results suggest that an app/website can (i) recruit users that have a broad spatial distribution that is similar to conventional surveys, (ii) generate data that capture regional fishing patterns (2218 trips on 289 lakes and 90 streams/rivers), and (iii) provide catch rate estimates that are similar to those from other fisheries-dependent surveys. Some potential biases in app users (e.g., urban bias) and in the relative composition of species caught provincially were identified. The app was not a suitable tool for estimating fish abundance and relative community composition. Our study demonstrates how apps can/cannot provide a complementary data-collection tool for recreational-fisheries monitoring, but further research is needed to determine the applicability of our findings to other fisheries contexts.
Freshwater recreational fisheries constitute complex adaptive social-ecological systems (SES) where mobile anglers link spatially structured ecosystems. We present a general social-ecological model of a spatial recreational fishery for northern pike ( Esox lucius ) that included an empirically measured mechanistic utility model driving angler behaviors. We studied emergent properties at the macro-scale (e.g., region) as a result of local-scale fish-angler interactions, while systematically examining key heterogeneities (at the angler and ecosystem level) and sources of uncertainty. We offer three key insights. First, the angler population size and the resulting latent reginal angling effort exerts a much greater impact on the overall regional-level overfishing outcome than any residential pattern (urban or rural), while the residential patterns strongly affects the location of local overfishing pockets. Second, simplifying a heterogeneous angler population to a homogenous one representing the preference and behaviours of an average angler risks severely underestimating landscape-level effort and regional overfishing. Third, we did not find that ecologically more productive lakes were more systematically overexploited than lower-productive lakes. We conclude that understanding regional-level outcomes depends on considering four key ingredients: regional angler population size, the angler population composition, the specific residential pattern in place and spatial ecological variation. Simplification of any of these may obscure important dynamics and render the system prone to collapse.
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Fishing for recreation is a popular activity in many parts of the world and this activity has led to the development of a sector of substantial social and economic value worldwide. The maintenance of this sector depends on the ability of aquatic ecosystems to provide fishery harvest. We are currently witnessing the collapse of many commercial marine fisheries due to over-exploitation. Recreational fisheries are typically viewed as different from commercial fisheries in that they are self-sustaining and not controlled by the social and economic forces of the open market that have driven many commercial fisheries to collapse. Here we reject the view that recreational and commercial fisheries are inherently different and demonstrate several mechanisms that can lead to the collapse of recreational fisheries. Data from four high profile Canadian recreational fisheries show dramatic declines over the last several decades yet these declines have gone largely unnoticed by fishery scientists, managers, and the public. Empirical evidence demonstrates that the predatory behavior of anglers reduces angling quality to levels proportional to distance from population centers. In addition, the behavior of many fish species and the anglers who pursue them, the common management responses to depleted populations, and the ecological responses of disrupted food webs all lead to potential instability in this predator-prey interaction. To prevent widespread collapse of recreational fisheries, fishery scientists and managers must recognize the impact of these processes of collapse and incorporate them into strategies and models of sustainable harvest.
Fingerling rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri)of genetically different strains survived, grew, and were caught at different rates by anglers and in gill nets after release from a hatchery into a 1-hectare pond. When two domestic strains were compared, m ore fish of the strain genetically selected for fast growth were caught per unit of angling effort than were fish of a strain not selected for this characteristic. When fish of a natural and domestic strain were released together, survival was higher in the natural strain, but growth was slower. Strain population estimates reflected differences in catchability and were erroneous for the strain selected for growth. These observationsim ply that rainbow trout of different strains vary in their suitability for different fishery management practices.
Fingerling rainbow trout (Salmo gairdneri) of genetically different strains survived, grew, and were caught at different rates by anglers and in gill nets after release from a hatchery into a 1-hectare pond. When two domestic strains were compared, more fish of the strain genetically selected for fast growth were caught per unit of angling effort than were fish of a strain not selected for this characteristic. When fish of a natural and domestic strain were released together, survival was higher in the natural strain, but growth was slower. Strain population estimates reflected differences in catchability and were erroneous for the strain selected for growth. These observations imply that rainbow trout of different strains vary in their suitability for different fishery management practices.
Hooking mortality was examined in a population of wild cutthroat trout (Salmo clarki bouvieri) in a portion of the Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park, which is managed under catch-and-release regulations. The number of trout dying from capture and release in the 4.5-km study area was assessed by searching for trout carcasses in established snorkeling routes. We divided our estimate of angler-induced mortalities by cutthroat trout abundance and creel survey data to estimate single capture hooking mortality and exploitation rates resulting from catch-and-release angling in the study area. The average number of times cutthroat trout were recaptured during the study period was estimated from the results of the creel survey and cutthroat trout abundance data. The hooking mortality rate per single capture was 0.3%. In 1981, 3% of the estimated cutthroat trout population died after capture and release by anglers. Cutthroat trout in the study area were captured an average of 9.7 times during the study period in 1981.
The goal of this study is to identify the mechanisms and measure the strengths of interactions within and among size classes in experimental populations of rainbow trout, Onchorynchus mykiss. The metric that we used to assess the density-dependent effects was based on consumptive allometry and predator-prey theory. We demonstrate that the interactions among size classes were asymmetrical, favoring larger-bodied individuals. Descriptions of diet and spatial resource use, measures of prey availability, and risk to intra-specific interactions allowed assessment of the relative contributions of exploitative and interference competitive interactions among size classes. Growth of the larger classes was strongly density-dependent and driven primarily by exploitative competition. Growth of the smallest size class was controlled by a combination of exploitative competition within and among size classes and interference competition with larger-bodied conspecifics. This combination of interactions among size classes within populations resulted in a body-size-based asymmetry favoring the larger size classes. Survival of all size classes was positively related to both body size and growth rate. We speculate that the net result of these processes within size-structured populations is compensatory, leading to stable population dynamics.
Angling selectivity due to both phenotypic variation and experience of being caught was examined at the individual level in white-spotted charr (Salvelinus leucomaenis) in a multiple catch-and-release experiment in a natural stream. We carried out a field study in a headwater tributary, which is closed to recreational fishing year-round for all species. As the study reach (0.9km) was located upstream from impassable dams, the white-spotted charr have a non-anadromous life history. After identifying individual fish (n = 415) using numbered anchor tags, eleven fishing episodes at 7-day intervals were conducted using single barbed baited hooks. Of the 735 marked fish (cumulative count) caught-and-released, 82 deep-hooked fish were released by cutting the line. Only one fish (0.13%) died before release. After these episodes, the experience of being caught of each recaptured fish (n = 366, recapture rate 88.2%, fork length 96–311mm) ranged from zero to seven times. The number of times caught increased with fork length and age, but was not related to the latest growth or condition factor. In addition, males were caught more often than females. The experience of being caught by angler differed significantly between caught (2.14 ± 0.25 times) and not caught (1.77 ± 0.13 times) fish at the 11th fishing episode. A logistic regression analysis was conducted to examine whether eight variables were related to the probability of being caught at the 11th fishing episode. The result suggests that the probability increased with experience of being caught and fork length. Therefore, fish that have been caught and released are more likely to be caught than not caught fish. Our results indicate that catch-and-release regulations can be an effective management tool because anglers may continuously catch fish while conserving fish populations.
Three hundred tagged largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) 14 to 29.5 cm long were divided into experimental groups of 100 fish which were designated as control, bait fishing, and artificial lure fishing. Since individuals were “known” by tag numbers, it was possible to test the hypotheses of (1) unequal vulnerability to angling among individuals and (2) hook avoidance learning. Results revealed that some conditioning or learning occurred among naive bass exposed to live bait angling for the first time. In the case of artificial lures and/or bass which were no longer naive, individuals appeared to have equal probability of capture and seemingly struck at random.