Working with both Craig Miller and his Human Dimensions Research Program and Sergiusz Czesny at the Lake Michigan Biological Station, graduate student Elizabeth Golebie has been examining Lake Michigan fishing from social and economic perspectives. The project was conceived in cooperation with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to determine the economic value of the Illinois portion of the Lake Michigan fishery. In collaboration with researchers from Purdue University and the Indiana DNR, the study was expanded to include Indiana anglers as well.
The first phase of the project was recruiting anglers to participate in the survey. Each year, the Illinois Natural History Survey and Indiana DNR instruct researchers, known as creel clerks, to interview anglers while they fish. During these interviews, the creel clerks invited the anglers to participate in the mail or internet survey for this project. By using both a mail and an internet version of the questionnaire, we were able to include anglers who did not have internet access, and those who found an internet survey more convenient. Predictably, the most noticeable difference between mail and internet respondents was that those using the internet were younger.
To meet the primary goal of the project, one section of the questionnaire asked anglers for their personal expenditures on an average fishing trip. From our group of respondents, people who fished from a boat spent an average of $226 per trip, and people who fished from the shore spent an average of $54 per trip. We used IMPLAN economic analysis software to calculate the effect of these purchases on the local economy and are estimating the total economic contribution from the Illinois and Indiana Lake Michigan fisheries.
We also collected information about angler characteristics to identify groups of anglers that may differ regarding each variable we considered. For example, in the expenditure analysis, we separated boating anglers from shore anglers because of the higher costs associated with owning and operating a boat.
We asked about anglers’ preferences regarding fishing regulations and stocking, perceptions of changes in the fishery, and problems they were experiencing. We then examined angler groups that differed by years of experience and amount of time spent fishing. Experienced and committed anglers tended to hold strong opinions and were concerned about long-term fish population declines and invasive species. Novice anglers were concerned about the aesthetic appearance of the lake and the availability of amenities, such as bathrooms and fish cleaning stations, and were less aware of ecologic problems that may be occurring.
Analysis is ongoing as we prepare final reports and papers for publication. We intend to provide information about angler expectations and needs in the Lake Michigan fishery and to state the economic importance of fishing as a recreational activity.
Authors: Elizabeth Golebie and Craig Miller