By Howard Meyerson
Michigan Trout Unlimited wants to find out more about cold water anglers, those who fish trout, salmon and steelhead on the state’s rivers and lakes. The conservation group raised $100,000 to fund that study. The project is expected to launch this summer and be complete in time for the 2015 fishing season.
“It’s been a very long time since we documented who is fishing trout in Michigan and what their preferences are,” said Bryan Burroughs, the executive director for Michigan TU. “We don’t know the basic demographic or their primary motivations for fishing.
“We have 18,000 miles of stream in Michigan. That information can help determine equitable management strategies and policies.”
A Michigan State University graduate student will conduct the study. He will be supervised by Dr. Frank Lupi, a professor there and fisheries economics expert.
State officials say the data will be useful. It will provide information that has not been collected before.
“We have a study that has been ongoing since 2009,” said Tammy Newcomb, the fisheries research program manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “When we had bass issues, we looked to that general statewide survey and drew from it.
“This is the same kind of thing only TU has come forward with funding to do it. It’s going to give us added information about trout anglers and the economics of the trout fishery. It will build on our program in a great way.”
Brian Gunderman, the chairman for Michigan’s cold water stream committee, the group that makes policy for trout streams, said there is a need for the information. Gunderman spearheads the DNR’s effort to gather angler opinion about the current proposal to double the daily brook trout limit in the Upper Peninsula.
“We don’t know much about brook trout anglers,” Gunderman said prior to the agency’s public announcement about the proposal. This is a critical thing we have been lacking: Who are our constituents and what do they want?”
TU raised three-quarters of the funding from chapters and private donations. The Frey Foundation provided a grant for nearly 25 percent.
The study will have two components. One is sifting through the DNR’s collected data to isolate information that is useful when making policy decisions about inland, cold water fisheries. The second will be collecting and analyzing fresh data about cold water angler demographics, preferences and economics.
That pool of data will help, Burroughs said, when it comes to future management decisions for brook trout, brown trout, steelhead or salmon. It will be useful when the time comes to discuss special regulations that guide fishing tackle restrictions or daily creel limits on those waters.
State fish managers regularly say that state fishing regulations are made using biological science and consideration of social factors. Burroughs said the study will help fill known gaps.
“When we were going through the process about gear restrictions on cold water streams, it didn’t sit well with us that we didn’t have the social factor data available to help navigate the management decisions,” Burroughs said. “Our philosophy is to use the best available science there is. In that case there was almost a complete paucity of social science available to help.”
Copyright © 2012 Howard Meyerson