A new strategy for catching speed amid Utah’s crowded fishing scene
There may be plenty of fish in the sea, they say, but fishing opportunities in Utah’s streams, rivers and lakes are just getting busier.
The number of anglers trying their luck in Utah waters has continually increased over the years, and at the same time it has become more expensive for state managers to raise and stock game fish, and it has become increasingly difficult to access aquatic recreation during the ongoing massive drought.
State fisheries managers are being asked to do more with less these days, and they are working more strategically to create sustainable opportunities for everyone who picks up a rod and reel. A new report from a team led by Jordan Smith outlines a creative approach to increasing the state’s recreational fishing capacity, and it’s a bit like matchmaking.
“The key to providing a satisfying day of hunting begins with determining the type of experience the hunter wants and then matching it to those resources,” said Smith of the Institute for Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at the Quinney College of Natural Resources.
According to surveys completed by the team, the main motivation for hunters is to get away from crowds in natural environments to relax. Beyond that, there is a lot of variation among anglers in the types of experiences they want. Ultimately, your motivation for hunting depends on your personality and the type of experience you want to have, Smith said.
“Except for some common motivations, it’s not really possible or useful to make general assumptions about hunters as a whole,” said Chase Lamborn, co-author of the research.
Using the data, the team created distinct angler profiles for different types of fishing experiences. The profiles allow managers to cultivate a portfolio of opportunities that provide satisfying experiences for Utah hunters, Lamborn said.
Through the results of a comprehensive user survey, the team found that hunters in Utah can be classified by motivation into five relatively distinct groups:
- Social hunters.
- Anglers who focus on fishing.
- Contradictory anglers.
- Catch and consume by anglers.
“People in social explorer and hunter groups tend to be more receptive to new experiences, even though their preferences, behaviors and motivations differ,” Lamborn said.
Contradictory hunters, fishers, and consumers are the least likely to seek out new experiences.
“Fishers with different motivations may use the same fishery, but in different ways,” Lamborn said. This underscores the need for individual fisheries to provide a variety of opportunities, he said.
For example, a single reservoir can provide more remote, isolated and natural areas for explorers and social fishermen looking for easier access, and a place to meet friends and family. Fishing-focused anglers may target backwaters, while take-and-take anglers are more likely to look for familiar areas with good water quality and high catch potential, so they can take home fish that are safe to eat.
“The report identifies specific elements that are essential to the fishing experience, helping managers understand what should be conserved or enhanced in Utah fisheries,” Lamborn said. “Managers can use this information to devise recreational solutions that enhance the sustainability of Utah’s fisheries and also meet the public’s underlying motivations, hopefully with public support along the way,” he said.
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