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What can we learn from census data?

Should we be stocking more browns or rainbows?
Where is the best place to fish for a trophy trout?
Where should I fish if I’ve been asked to bring home dinner?
I want my guest to catch a fish, which quarry should we fish?

How would you answer these questions? These are only some of the questions the data may help you answer.

Look at the percent of fish caught by species.

Look at the distribution of fish caught by length

Fisheries management at Limestone Trout Club has changed over the years to respond to member preferences. In 1960 they were proud to achieve a harvest rate of 80% with a gentleman’s limit of 25 pounds and a season average of 10.1 oz/fish! Over time supplemental feeding was introduced to encourage larger fish. By 2008 the stocking of fingerlings in the 2”-3” size was bumped up to 4”-5” to give them a better chance of survival against larger trout. And, the percent of fish harvested had significantly declined. In 2010 larger fish were being stocked with a 35-40% harvest rate and by 2012 when I started computerizing the catch data harvesting had dropped to 27%. The details showed the oft quoted 90/10 rule – 10% of the members harvested 90% of the fish. From 2012 to now the harvest rate continued to drop and now stands at 3.2% for 2018.

With supplemental feeding and fewer fish being harvested we now have healthy home grown trout, more trophy trout, and lower stocking costs – a win-win in anyone’s book. However, maintaining a healthy fishery and managing the biomass of fish requires constant observation and thoughtful management.

Quarry by Quarry Comparisons

    • Average Length = 15.6”
    • Weight Taken: Average = 20.5 oz, Total = 42.3 lbs.
    • 3.2% Taken
    • Most fish caught in 13”-17” range
    • Quick drop after 17”
    • Rainbows caught outnumber browns
    • Go to Birch to catch more fish
    • Average Length  = 17.9
    • Weight Taken: Average = 21.3 oz, Total = 8.0 lbs.
    • 0.9% Taken
    • More fish caught in 21”-29” range
    • Steady drop to 27”
    • Browns caught outnumber rainbows
    • Go to Cedar to catch trophy fish
  • PINE
    • Average Length = 17.1
    • Weight Taken: Average = 28.1 oz, Total = 61.4 lbs.
    • 5.4% Taken
    • Faster drop to 25”
    • Browns caught outnumber rainbows
    • Fish eaters go to Pine

Dean's Conclusions

  • There are big fish in all ponds
  • Catch and release has been good for the fish and fishing without restricting harvesting. The ‘gentleman’s’ limited harvesting of the '50s seems to work 60 years later!
  • Relationship of access points to catch rates inconclusive from data. We do not have any ‘hours fished’ data.
  • We appear to have a good stocking strategy by stocking in the 12”-14” range and helping them grow.

Some factors to consider when looking at the data.

  • Stocking lengths, quantities, and timing
  • Harvest rates
  • Quarry fishing restrictions (Cedar for trophies)
  • Last season stocking decisions (i.e. Birch was more heavily stocked)
  • Different quarry characteristics (water conditions, cover, angler access, topology, …)

The elevator pitch for each water

  • Cedar – Go for your trophy
  • Birch – Go to catch a fish, take a friend/novice
  • Pine – Go for good fishing and good eating
  • Club – Good for a cast or two on the way to somewhere else
  • Rock – Go to observe fish and figure out how a fish reacts to your fly
  • Spruce – Easy casting and good fishing when stocked