Fisheries management approaches need to consider angler behaviour, or there could be knock-on effects once practices are implemented. Synchrony – an emergent property of recreational fisheries by Kaemingk et al. is published today in Journal of Applied Ecology.

FishingUnderstanding how people use natural resources in space and time is challenging, but necessary for proper management.  Biologists often face difficult and urgent management decisions; these decisions may have substantial shortcomings if there is a lack of information to guide management practices.

For recreational fisheries, management actions are often necessary to sustain angler and fish populations.  However, angler participation patterns through time and space are poorly understood, especially in areas with multiple lakes to fish.

The number and types of lakes in an area likely play a role in angler participation.  We must consider how anglers view and use multiple lakes.  On one hand, anglers could view all lakes similarly.  On the other hand, anglers could view each lake differently. We predict that timing of fishing (i.e., use) will depend on how anglers view lakes according to their needs.  Anglers are predicted to fish in an unsynchronized fashion if they view lakes differently.  In contrast, anglers are predicted to fish in a synchronized fashion if they view lakes similarly.

Our approach provides an insight into angler behaviour at multiple spatial scales.  Anglers generally fish at distant and nearby lakes at the same time of the year.  However, these fishing patterns are not completely synchronous because anglers view and use lakes differently.  For example, the size of fishing groups varied across lakes, which indicates a social aspect of participation.  Lakes with more amenities often attract social anglers.  Anglers appear to choose to fish lakes that meet their specific needs, which causes differences in angler participation patterns among lakes, both distant and nearby.  This is an important consideration for managing recreational fisheries at multiple spatial scales.

We identified High, Moderate, and Low levels of fishing activity across lakes in Nebraska that corresponded to different people-fish interactions:

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Fisheries management actions may alter the way anglers view and use a lake, but the consequences of these actions are rarely assessed. Based on our results, it is reasonable to conclude that anglers in Nebraska view and use lakes somewhat differently. If management actions are modified at a particular lake, could this affect how anglers use a nearby lake? Lake-specific management actions can influence patterns in angler participation on distant and nearby lakes. Closing a lake for fishing and assuming anglers will visit a nearby lake may not be true. Instead, anglers may choose not to participate or begin fishing at a distant lake – travelling greater distances to meet their fishing needs. Likewise, statewide management actions can influence patterns in angler participation on distant and nearby lakes. We hope that our work will improve understanding among natural resource managers on the complexities of people-fish interactions across space and time.

The full article, Synchrony – an emergent property of recreational fisheries is freely available for a limited time in Journal of Applied Ecology.