Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

March 9, 1998

From the DNR

The Hutchinson Area Fisheries Headquarters (DNR) conducted an angler survey at Marion Lake and Swan Lake, both in McLeod County, for a one-year period beginning Nov. 15, 1995, and ending Nov. 14, 1996.

One purpose of the survey was to find out what kinds and how many fish anglers were catching, stated Gene Jeseritz, Assistant Area Fisheries Supervisor at Hutchinson.

Other goals involved finding out how many hours anglers were devoting to angling, describe angler demographics and also to get an idea of how much money angling was contributing the local economy. Jeseritz stated that angler surveys are a tool used by fisheries managers to evaluate present fish management.

It's like a farmer watching the grain going into the bin on his combine. He can see the bin filling up but he doesn't know how good a farmer he is until he figures out how many bushels to the acre he has produced.

During the one-year survey, an angler clerk was hired to collect data. The clerk visited the two lakes on different days of the week and also at different times of the day in order to get a representative sample of angler pressure.

The clerk conducted 1,103 interviews at Marion and 669 interviews at Swan.

Jeseritz gave examples of questions that the angler survey helped to answer. This type of information will help fisheries managers in developing new fisheries lake management plans and also allow managers to become more responsive to the public.

Question 1: How many hours a year do people spend angling at Marion and Swan lakes?

The survey estimated that anglers expended 43,000 angler hours or 103 hours per acre at Marion Lake and 25,000 hours or 72 hours per acre at Swan Lake. These numbers indicate that angling pressure is quite high as compared to other lakes in the state.

Question 2: Is winter ice angling significant?

On a monthly basis, anglers at Marion Lake expended more hours in the winter (4,218 hours per month) than they did in the summer (3,188 hours per month).

At Swan Lake, the results were reversed. Winter angling (1,130 hours per month) contributed less than did summer angling (2,605 hours per month).

At both lakes however, it is clear that winter angling contributes significantly to total angling opportunity.

Question 3: Are the fishing piers at Marion Lake and Swan Lake contributing to angling opportunity?

The survey estimated that during the summer, angling from piers at Marion amounted to 14 percent of the total summer pressure while at Swan, pier angling accounted for 22 percent of the total summer angling pressure. Piers appear to be very important to anglers, especially those who do not own a boat.

Question 4: What species of fish are anglers most often seeking?

At Marion Lake, 24 percent of anglers were seeking black crappies and 17 percent were seeking walleyes.

However, anglers interested in panfish species (bluegill, crappie, or pumpkinseed sunfish) accounted for 57 percent of the total angling pressure.

At Swan Lake, 37 percent of anglers were targeting walleyes followed by black crappies at 19 percent. At Swan, like Marion Lake, a high percentage (42 percent) of the anglers were targeting panfish species.

Question 5: How many fish were harvested by anglers at Marion and Swan lakes?

The survey estimated that 27,000 fish were harvested at Marion and 21,000 were harvested at Swan Lake.

Question 6: How many pounds of fish were taken at each lake?

An estimated 12,500 pounds (30 pounds per acre) were harvested at Marion and 13,000 pounds (38 pounds per acre) were harvested at Swan.

Question 7: Are most anglers comprised of men or women?

At Marion Lake, 86 percent of the total number of anglers were male while at Swan 83 percent were male. It appears that more work needs to be done to encourage females to participate in angling as a recreational opportunity.

Question 8: How important are lakes like Marion and Swan to the community?

Angler trip-related expenditures were calculated by applying information from the Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife Associated Recreation (1991).

It was estimated that trip related expenses amounted to $506,000 at Marion Lake and $405,000 at Swan. These amounts are based on trip-related expenses only and do not include the costs of larger items such as boats, motors, or trailers.

The amounts also do not include dollars spent on other recreational activities such as hunting, water skiing, jetskiing, sailing, or boating.

Jeseritz stated that any time you try to estimate economic values, there is a certain amount of subjectivity involved. But if we add together the value of angling together with other recreational expenses, it might be conceivable that the total economic impact to the local economy might be approaching $1 million a year for each lake.

Jeseritz also stated that though these dollar amounts are impressive, the biological benefits provided by lakes such as Marion and Swan may be even greater.

Lakes act as reservoirs to help reduce flooding downstream. They filter nutrients and sediments in a watershed. They contribute to the recharging of ground water wells in the area.

They provide habitat for diverse species of plants and animals which contribute to the overall health of the biological community, Jeseritz said.

Also, how do you put a value on the enjoyment gained by people who like to be on or around water?

The information provided in this article is just a sample of the total data collected during the one-year angler survey. Those interested to learning more about the survey can contact Gene Jeseritz at the Area Fisheries Headquarters in Hutchinson at (320) 587-2717.

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