Managing Hybrid Bluegill Fisheries: Estimating and Predicting the Effects of Young Anglers
Dana L. Winkelman and Clifton Sager
Abstract.—Hybrid bluegill are becoming increasingly popular for stocking at youth fishing clinics and urban recreational fisheries. However, no studies have evaluated potential impacts of young anglers (ages 12 and under) on hybrid bluegill. Our objective was to quantify catch rate and short-term angling mortality associated with young anglers on hybrid bluegill. We held two fishing clinics to estimate catch rates of stocked hybrid bluegill and observed anglers for 10-min intervals throughout the clinic. Mean catch rates for hybrid bluegill at two youth fishing clinics were 6.6 and 4.4 fish/ h. We estimated that 65% of stocked hybrid bluegill (n = 400) were captured during a 2-h fishing period. We estimated the influence of stocking density on catch rate to predict appropriate stocking densities. Catch rates in experimental ponds ranged from 1.0 to 35.6 fish/angler-hour at stocking densities ranging from 120 to 2,000 fish/ha, respectively. We also conducted catch and release mortality trials to estimate short-term mortality of fish captured by young anglers. Fish were held in net pens and observed for 36 h following capture. We observed only one death from a total of 80 captured fish during our mortality trials. We developed a simulation model to assess management options. Model results suggest that relatively high catch rates (8–10 fish/h) can be maintained with a modest stocking effort (100 fish/month) for a catch-and-release fishery. Even modest harvest would result in a short-term put-and-take fishery. Empirical and modeling results indicate that hybrid bluegill are suitable candidates for youth fishing clinics and can be managed with catch-and-release regulations.