New Ohio Sea Grant research finds that the economic benefits of steelhead trout fishing in Lake Erie’s tributaries may outweigh the costs of stocking the fish.
Sea Grant Extension District Specialists, Dave Kelch and Frank Lichtkoppler recently completed a first-of-its-kind, seven-month study surveying steelhead anglers at popular Ohio Lake Erie streamside locations. ODNR Division of Wildlife has stocked steelhead trout into Lake Erie tributaries since 1975.
"Anytime there is a state-sponsored effort to increase recreational opportunity, it’s important to have an idea of the benefits or returns to the expense of the effort," states Kelch. "For Ohio’s steelhead stocking program, our study can estimate both actual expenditures per trip, in addition to valuation of the fishery by the angler."
Anglers were contacted at popular Ohio Lake Erie streamside locations from October 2002 through April 2003. In addition to basic creel questions, anglers were asked to participate in a mail survey to better understand steelhead angler fishing habits, economic expenditures, and angling/visitation needs. 487 anglers were contacted, with 375 surveys returned.
The survey found that respondents not only took an average of 44 steelhead fishing trips per year, (with 72% of the trips taken at the site contacted), but that most (94%) took single-day trips. "It was not surprising to find that most anglers take single day trips, considering most anglers surveyed traveled approximately 52 miles one way to their angling site," emphasizes Lichtkoppler.
Anglers surveyed also averaged 1.33 fish caught per day and 58.4 per season, with approximately 88% of fish caught released. Those surveyed spend approximately $26 per trip, with more than 60% of these expenditures within 10 miles of the sites where they are fishing.
"The study revealed anglers value their Ohio stream steelhead experience between $36 to $50 per trip, and value each steelhead caught between $27 and $38," states Kelch. "Considering the average cost to stock steelhead is approximately $1.44 per fish, the benefits certainly outweigh the costs."
While these results suggest that steelhead angling is highly valued by a limited segment of anglers, more studies will be needed to fully estimate the benefits for all Ohio angling.