Characterizing the Human Dimensions of a Hidden Fishery: Riverine Trotline Fishers

Benjamin D. Dickinson Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0321 Donald J. Orth Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0321. E-mail: [email protected] Steve L. McMullin Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech University, Blacksburg, VA 24061-0321 Hidden fisheries include catfish harvesters who use trotlines and are seldom surveyed. We examined trotline fishers to describe fishing habits and techniques, trotline fishing knowledge, recreational motivations, and opinions of the fishery, regulations, and conflicts with other river users. Trotline fishers on the New River, Virginia, were secretive and solitary, and some were socioeconomically disadvantaged. They placed high importance on catch- and harvest-related factors, in contrast to many other angler groups who use highly specialized methods. They relied on harvesting catfish for varying degrees of sustenance to their diet or income. Trotline fishing appears to be part of a larger “way of life” for some rural individuals, who may also hunt, trap, and garden as part of activities to supplement their diet or income. New River trotline fishers strongly believed that participation in trotline fishing had declined significantly in the New River Valley due to improving socioeconomic status of the region, changing recreational values (such as focus on catch-and-release fishing and paddle sports), increasing recreational boat traffic and law enforcement presence, and decreasing participation in trotline fishing by younger generations. Click here for Spanish abstract.