A primary motivating factor on the decision to harvest a fish among consumptive-orientated anglers is the size of the fish. There is likely a cost-benefit trade-off for harvest of individual fish that is size and species dependent, which should produce a logistic-type response of fish fate (release or harvest) as a function of fish size and species. We define the self-imposed length limit as the length at which a captured fish had a 50% probability of being harvested, which was selected because it marks the length of the fish where the probability of harvest becomes greater than the probability of release. We assessed the influences of fish size, catch per unit effort, size distribution of caught fish, and creel limit on the self-imposed length limits for bluegill Lepomis macrochirus, channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus, black crappie Pomoxis nigromaculatus and white crappie Pomoxis annularis combined, white bass Morone chrysops, and yellow perch Perca flavescens at six lakes in Nebraska, USA. As we predicted, the probability of harvest increased with increasing size for all species harvested, which supported the concept of a size-dependent trade-off in costs and benefits of harvesting individual fish. It was also clear that probability of harvest was not simply defined by fish length, but rather was likely influenced to various degrees by interactions between species, catch rate, size distribution, creel-limit regulation and fish size. A greater understanding of harvest decisions within the context of perceived likelihood that a creel limit will be realized by a given angler party, which is a function of fish availability, harvest regulation and angler skill and orientation, is needed to predict the influence that anglers have on fish communities and to allow managers to sustainable manage exploited fish populations in recreational fisheries.
Additional publication details
Self-imposed length limits in recreational fisheries
Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit