Perusing BC Steelhead Survey Data

BC Steelhead Questionnaire

BC Steelhead Questionnaire

I recently received a survey from the fine folks at the Fish, Habitat, and Wildlife Management Branch of British Columbia. They wanted to know what waters I fished while there, and how many fish were caught, kept, and/or released. I filled out the form, but in the process of stuffing it in the recycled post-paid envelope (which I thought was pretty classy of them to provide), I noticed that the back of the questionnaire contained results from previous years. That data has been reproduced below:

SeasonLicenses SoldActive AnglersSuccessful AnglersCatch KeptCatch ReleasedAngling Days
1992/9323,62516,78910,40810,919107,493199,422
1993/9427,48218,9189,6387,15073,456189,840
1994/9523,06116,8929,6747,83195,013187,699
1995/9623,04416,3369,5086,67490,463186,944
1996/9719,60813,2968,3296,28085,081149,730
1997/9819,81414,1528,6155,86580,659151,822
1998/9919,17613,9278,9676,86197,455145,796
1999/0021,24414,1188,8475,06290,381145,285
2000/0120,71314,5199,1426,592109,291159,162
2001/0220,67914,2379,4065,857105,957154,982
2002/0319,99713,7578,8153,90092,696142,180
2003/0419,17114,3138,8315,10589,207154,755
2005/0616,54511,1137,5145,27972,128118,425
2006/0718,25511,9487,5693,62961,417103,841
2007/0821,68912,9926,4443,48777,133131,362
2009/1019,46912,9298,1974,11368,253122,308
2010/1118,09812,1478,1495,01386,414122,355

A couple of points really stand out here. First and foremost, from 1992 to 2011, active anglers dropped by 27.6% while total angling days decreased by 38.6%. So fewer anglers spending even fewer days on the water chasing steelhead. Angler success rate (successful/active) remains fairly predictable – averaging 61.5%, with a median of 62.7% and low and high (both outliers) at 49.6% and 67.6% respectively.

Total Catch Released by Active AnglersCatch and release is themed heavily. While total fish caught dropped by 22.8%, the proportion kept dropped by a whopping 54.1%. A regulations change before the 1993/94 season? Seventeen data points is hardly a reliable sample set (and several years were not provided) nevertheless I did find it interesting that there was de minimis correlation between the number of steelhead released and either licenses sold (p = 0.421) or active anglers (p = 0.148). Angler success is an obvious determinant as to how many fish are released, but the actual rate of success seems to have little to do with the actual percentage released (p = 0.393). Anglers release fish because…they can.

There is probably more that could be gleaned from the data, but the really cool part is simply that it was available to begin with. Steelhead are quintessentially BC fish, grand in their own right and deserving of the attention. That anglers are willing to release in upwards of 95% of their steelhead catch, over 87,000 on average annually, only reinforces the case.

Total Catch Released Summary

MG signing off (to seek out patterns where none exist)

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