Fisheries management in Tennessee is based on information collected with sound methodology using the most contemporary techniques available within the community of fisheries professionals. Although the methods we use for obtaining information are sound and proven, there is no way to circumvent the inherent variability common to biological data. It is however, possible to validate our findings by comparing the results of multiple techniques. Commonly, we use angler surveys to compliment fish community surveys.
Angler surveys rely on fishermen to provide information about a fishery including, effort, catch, preferences, demographics, and economics. The information we collect through angler surveys gives us an unbiased sample of the angling population that we use in addition to our fishery independent assessments to select the best management plans to accommodate the widest variety of anglers.
Just as no single sampling method can be used to describe every fish population, (see fish community surveys), no single angler survey method can adequately represent all anglers or all components of a fishing experience. We therefore use several angler survey techniques to gain a comprehensive picture of the sportfishing population in Tennessee. The methods are described below:
The TWRA contracts annually with the University of Tennessee (UT) do an annual random survey of licensed anglers. A list of licensed anglers is provided to the Human Dimensions Research Lab at UT. From that list, a large random sample of anglers is contacted by telephone. The anglers are asked questions such as where they live, where the like to fish, the type of fishing they do, which species they like to fish for and their satisfaction with with fishing in Tennessee. The anglers are also invited to provide comments and suggestions concerning management of Tennessee Fisheries.
The Advantages to This Type of Survey Are:
- Provides unbiased randomly collected information about the entire angling population in Tennessee.
- Low cost per interview
- Good response rates
The Disadvantages Include:
- Recall Bias - this means that an angler may be asked questions about a fishing experience which occurred weeks maybe even months before the interview. The angler may not be able to accurately answer all of the questions due to the passage of time.
- A particular portion of the angling population may choose to not respond
On-Site Angler Creel Surveys:
Each year representatives from the TWRA approach anglers while they are fishing in order to ask them about their fishing experience that day. This process is known as a creel survey. The "creel clerks" ask anglers questions about the amount of time they have been fishing, what they are fishing for, what the have caught or released, where they are from, and questions about how much money was spent on the fishing trip. The information obtained is very useful to TWRA fishery biologists to make informed decisions regarding management of the states resources.
Currently the TWRA employs 11 full time creel clerks who conduct creel surveys on 17 reservoirs throughout Tennessee. Annually they collect between 10,000 and 15,000 interviews. In addition to reservoirs, various seasonal stream and tailrace surveys are conducted on an as-needed bases. The TWRA also contracts with the Tennessee Technological Institute from time to time to conduct specialized surveys where new research is the main focus.
The creel clerks may approach anglers by boat while they are in the process of fishing. This type of survey is known as a "roving creel survey". At other times the creel clerk may wait at a boat ramp, or pier to interview anglers at the completion of a fishing trip. This is known as an "access point creel survey". If you are approached by a creel clerk, please take a few minutes to respond to an interview. This process allows you to have a voice in the management of Tennessees' fishery resources.
Advantages of Creel Surveys:
- No recall bias - anglers are not required to remember effort and catch from past fishing events
- High response rates
- Creel clerks are able to directly observe caught species. This allow for accurate identification and measuring of harvested fishes.
Disadvantages of On-Site Creel Surveys:
- It can be difficult to relate the information to the entire fishing population. For example, a reservoir creel survey would not represent stream or pond anglers.
- High cost per interview
Online and Mail-In Tournament Surveys - TWRA's BITE Program:
The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agencys' BITE (Bass Information from Tournament Entries) program is a coordinated effort between the Agency and organized bass clubs which hold tournaments in Tennessee. Tournament organizers voluntarily submit their tournament data to the TWRA Fisheries Management Division via an online reporting form or a mail-in tournament report card. The information on the report form or card supplies information such as the location of the tournament, number of participants, total catch, and size and weight structure of the tournament catch. Annually, the information collected from tournament organizers is compiled into a report which benefits both the TWRA as well as tournament anglers.
The Advantages include:
- Information about bass stocks is compiled for major reservoirs
- Information about otherwise unknown tournament effort is provided to biologists
- Tournament anglers benefit by receiving information about bass tournament catch around Tennessee.
- Information is provided only for a very specific portion of the fishing population.
- Catch, effort, and size structure may be proportionally greater than in the general fishing population