Survey shows angler effort, economic impact

Albany – New York’s anglers love their bass fishing, spend
millions annually in pursuit of their pursuit of many species of
fish, and flock to waters like Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, Oneida Lake
and the St. Lawrence River.

But they’d also like to see more fishing access sites across the
state, a better chance at catching big fish and wild fish, and
would like to see a ban on the sale of angler-caught panfish.

Those were some of the highlights of a 2007 angler survey
conducted for the DEC by Cornell University’s Department of Natural
Resources.

The survey, funded by a federal Sport Fish Restoration grant,
provides DEC’s Bureau of Fisheries with piles of data ultimately
used to guide future management efforts.

“In general, it looks like we’re meeting the needs of anglers in
the state,”_DEC_Fisheries Bureau Chief Steve Hurst said. “The
access issues stand out. We’re fortunate that we have a lot of
fishing access in this state, but anglers want more. Personally,
I’d like to see us focus more on warmwater streams and river
access.”

About 20,000 license anglers completed survey questionnaires
through a random sampling. It was the first such survey since 1996;
DEC has conducted the angler surveys since 1973, generally about
every 10 years.

DEC_Commissioner Pete Grannis called the survey “an important
tool that will help build on our success in managing fisheries and
create new fishing opportunities.”

The survey showed New York anglers spent about 18.7 million days
on the water in 2007, up slightly from 18.6 million in 1996 but
below the peak of about 21 million in 1988. Oneida Lake, a popular
walleye water, and the Hudson_River, known for its striped bass
fishing, saw major increases in fishing traffic – about 20,000 days
more than the 1996 survey. Several other waters, such as Lake Erie,
Cayuga Lake and Lake Champlain, also saw increased angling
attention.

Lake Ontario remained the top fishing water in the state in
terms of angler numbers, with an estimated 1.3 million angler days
in 2007. Oneida Lake was a distant second with 786,000, followed by
lake Erie (658,000), the St. Lawrence River (651,000), the
Hudson_River (471,000), Chautauqua Lake (414,000), Niagara River
(367,000), Seneca Lake (340,000), Salmon_River (333,000) and Cayuga
Lake (296,000).

Bass – both smallmouth and largemouth – continued to be the most
popular species, followed by trout (brook, brown and rainbow),
walleye, yellow perch, lake trout, bluegill/sunfish, northern pike,
steelhead, chinook/coho salmon, crappie and catfish.

“From a species standpoint, walleye and pike (angler effort) has
picked up a bit,”_Hurst said. “There’s no question bass are still
No. 1, and we can’t dismiss the effort that goes into trout.”

About one-third of the surveyed anglers ranked bass as their
favorite species, and 75 percent placed them in their top five.

While there were several popular and well-known waters across
the state that see heavy angler traffic, survey respondents
indicated most anglers prefer to fish inland lakes for warmwater
species like bass, pike, walleye and panfish. Inland trout streams
were the second choice.

The survey also pointed to the massive economic impact from
fishing in New York. Resident and nonresident anglers collectively
spent an estimated $331 million at the fishing sites and another
$202 million en route to their favorite waters, according to the
survey. Nearly one-third (30 percent) of those expenditures came
from nonresident anglers.

The Great Lakes fishery generated an estimated $98 million in
at-location expenditures, with another $231 coming from inland
water anglers.

The five counties with the highest angler expenditures were
Oswego ($42.6 million); Jefferson ($35.3 million); St. Lawrence
($17.9 million); Chautauqua ($15.3 million) and Warren ($13.8
million).

Oswego County’s main draw is the Salmon River and the eastern
basin of Lake Ontario, while Jefferson County also offers a portion
of Lake Ontario; St. Lawrence both Black Lake and the St. Lawrence
River; Chautauqua has Chautauqua Lake and Lake Erie; and Warren
County features Lake George.

Hurst noted the survey came prior to the economic downturn and
at a time when gas prices were relatively high.

The survey also showed New York’s anglers:

€ would like to see more fishing access sites across the state,
as well as improved facilities at those sites.

€ opportunities to catch larger fish, as well as wild fish.

€ are generally satisfied with DEC’s stocking practices and want
to see the current mix of one- and two-year-old stocked brown trout
continued.

€ more simplified fishing regulations, favored by about
two-thirds of respondents.

€ a ban on the sale of angler-caught fish. The survey showed
many anglers weren’t even aware of the practice, but 77 percent
support a ban on “market fishing.” The survey also noted that while
the practice is popular in DEC regions 5 and 6 (particularly among
ice anglers), support for a ban on selling panfish remained about
two to one.

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