Catch and Release in Marine Recreational Fisheries

To Keep or Release: Understanding Differences in Angler Behavior

A. J. Fedler


The use of catch-and-release-related management tools has generated controversy and conflict among marine recreational anglers, yet little research has been undertaken to understand the basis of these differing views. Most information on the acceptability of catch-and-release regulations has been obtained from public-hearing testimony and written public comments by activist anglers and angling organizations. Little is known about the catch-and-release orientation of anglers beyond a handful of studies that have principally focused on freshwater anglers. Marine anglers may differ from freshwater anglers both in terms of the proportion of the angling population which practices catch and release and support for catch-and-release regulations. Furthermore, some anglers release fish that are below or above legal limits, but harvest legal fish and consider this catch-and-release fishing. This paper uses results from several studies of marine recreational anglers to bring some understanding to these differing views of catch-and-release angling.

Data from three surveys of marine anglers, the 1996 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation (USFWS 1997), a statewide survey of marine and freshwater anglers in Maryland (Fedler 1989), and a survey of marine anglers in Florida (Fedler et al. 2000) were used to: identify the number of anglers that have an affinity for catch-and-release fishing; compare release-oriented anglers and harvest-oriented anglers across an array of motivational, fishing site selection, and management variables; and characterize how implementing catch-and-release regulations for specific species would impact marine anglers.