Survey sheds light on fishing in Colorado
DENVER — Colorado’s human population is growing and becoming more diverse. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is making sure to keep pace. A 2012 Angler Survey report commissioned by the agency unveiled an informative collection of data that will allow the agency to serve the needs of a changing sport-fishing culture.
The survey respondents let Colorado Parks and Wildlife know that they preferred fishing for trout and that the overall satisfaction level of anglers was high. Results also revealed the potential impact of a changing sport-fishing demographic on the Colorado’s hatchery system.
“We’re trying measure how angler demand might change over the next 10-20 years,” said Stacy Lischka, a human dimensions specialist and compiler of the survey. “This is critical information that will help us provide the angling opportunities people would like to have in Colorado.”
The majority of both resident and non-resident anglers responded that they were either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied with their fishing experience in Colorado. Thirty-three percent of residents said they were “very” satisfied, along with 48 percent of non-residents, and 33 percent of resident anglers responded that they were “somewhat” satisfied with their experience, compared to 32 percent of non-residents.
Despite the positive response, the survey indicates there is room for improvement. Forty-six percent of resident anglers wanted additional fishing opportunities for rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. Non-residents favored brown, cutthroat and lake trout, with 64 percent wanting additional opportunities to fish for those species. Currently, rainbow, cutthroat and brown trout make up most of the agency’s hatchery fish. The majority of fish caught in Colorado are stocked by the agency. Because Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s hatchery system is aging, increasing these numbers to meet angler desires may require an update and expansion of the system.
“The majorities of our hatcheries are more than 75 years old and require nearly constant maintenance,” said Chief of Hatcheries Matt Nicholl. “Recent budget constraints have limited our ability to keep up with repairs, much less provide upgrades.”
Along with an aging hatchery system, Colorado’s anglers are aging as well. As a larger number of older anglers retire, they may spend more time on the water. The survey found that more than half of anglers 51 to 70 years old bought a license in all of the last five years, whereas just 37 percent of anglers under 50 purchased licenses every year. More anglers on the water may increase demand for accessible public access sites or lead to crowding at existing sites. In addition, as the angler population ages, a higher proportion of Colorado’s anglers are becoming eligible for the Senior License, and that could prove problematic for the agency. Colorado residents over the age of 64 pay only one dollar for a fishing license, so as more anglers reach that age, fishery management could face a drop-off in funding.
Other notable findings include a potential for increased pressure on future trout stocks. The Colorado State Demographer’s Office projects an expected decrease in the proportion of Colorado’s white, non-Hispanic population, while the proportion of the Hispanic population is expected to increase. Survey results indicate Hispanic anglers are more likely to keep their catch than non-Hispanic anglers, which could increase harvest pressure on future trout stocks. Although these shifts are unlikely to change species preferences, it also could affect the way the agency markets fishing to anglers.
The survey was sent to 3,000 randomly selected anglers — 1,500 residents and 1,500 non-residents — with 1,404 respondents.
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