Spring Creek Angler Use Survey 2014  A Spring Creek Chapter Project

In the Spring and early Summer of 2014, the chapter conducted a comprehensive survey of the fishing activity on Spring Creek in conjunction with the PA Fish and Boat Commission. 

This study covered 8 miles of Spring Creek over a 4 ½ month period.  Seventeen volunteers covered 154, two hour shifts putting in a total of 308 hours.  Some anglers were interviewed to determine how many fish they caught, size, species, how long they fished, etc. The Slide Show below shows the results of this study and includes a comparison to prior studies.

 

Why expend so much effort and time on this project?  

One of the most compelling reasons we can use to justify the protection and enhancement of Spring Creek is the positive economic impact angling has on the surrounding communities.  To estimate economic benefits of a fishery, one must know how many anglers participate and have a measure of how much they spend.  One such measure of expenditures is distance traveled.  Angler use surveys can provide these kinds of data.

 

Results of angler use surveys can provide a great deal of other kinds of data that will help the Fish and Boat Commission better manage this resource.  The last intensive angler survey was conducted in 1988-1989.  Although the angling regulations have not changed since then, there have been many changes in land ownership, access, habitat improvements, and fishing pressure.  We need up-to-date information on this fishery to determine how it may have changed over the past 25 years, to assess the quality of the fishery, and to measure angler opinions of the fishery.

 

How is the survey conducted? 

The survey will be conducted from March 1 to July 27, 2014 on four stream reaches: McCoy dam site, upstream of Highway 550, Fisherman’s Paradise, and Benner Spring.  Each week two stream reaches will be surveyed on two weekdays and on both weekend days during a specified 2-hour interval.  Volunteer surveyors from SCCTU will walk and/or drive along their assigned reach and count all anglers.  After completion of the count, volunteers will interview as many anglers as possible within the 2-hour interval.  Anglers will be asked a few questions, including how many trout they caught and how they would rate the fishery.  Each interview should take only a few minutes.

 

How can you help?  If you would like to help with this survey contact Judi Sittler

 

1976 Angler Survey

 

The first angler survey on Spring Creek was conducted by James Hartzler, a graduate student at Penn State.  He surveyed anglers on a 3-mile reach from Benner Spring to the upstream boundary of Fisherman’s Paradise.  The survey ran from opening day in April to June 20, 1976.  This reach had been stocked with 6,268 hatchery trout.  There were no tackle restrictions, and the daily bag limit was 8 trout.

 

Fishing pressure during the early part of the 1976 was intense, but gradually fell to low levels by mid June.  Catch rates of trout were rather modest – 0.22 trout/hr.  Nearly all angled trout were stocked, and most of them were harvested.

 

1988-1989 Angler Survey

 

The next angler survey was conducted by the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State.  The survey ran from June 1 to November 30, 1988 and from March 15 to May 31, 1989.  Three stream reaches were surveyed: upstream of Highway 550 to Hartle’s bridge, Fisherman’s Paradise, and Benner Spring.

 

Conditions on Spring Creek were much different during this survey than during the 1976 survey.  Owing to pollution of Spring Creek with kepone and mirex, trout stocking was greatly reduced in 1978 and completely eliminated by 1981.  Chemical pollution prompted the Fish and Boat Commission to institute a new pollution regulation in 1982, which prohibited harvest of any fish from Spring Creek.  The stream was open to year-round fishing and there were no tackle restrictions, except at Fisherman’s Paradise, where flies-only regulations remained in effect.

 

The elimination of harvest and the cessation of stocking along with environmental improvements apparently benefitted wild brown trout.  Between 1980 and 1988 density and biomass of wild brown trout more than doubled in Spring Creek.  This remarkable increase in wild brown trout was evident in the results of the 1988-1989 angler survey.

 

During this survey, fishing pressure was spread more evenly across all months, compared to the 1976.  Perhaps, more importantly, catch rates of wild trout were much improved over those when fishery relied on stocked trout.  Data in the following table compare fishery statistics at Benner Spring from April to June.  Anglers in 1988-1989

 

 

Hours/mile

Trout/hour

Catch/mile

1976

7,150

0.22

856

1988-1989

3,106

1.35

4,193

 

were faced with much lower fishing pressure than in 1976, and at same time had much greater catch rates. 

 

Fishery statistics for the entire 1988-1989 survey period were rather impressive.

 

 

Hours/mile

Trout/hour

Catch/mile

Benner Spring

6,908

1.25

8,702

Fisherman’s Paradise

8,579

0.77

7,019

Highway 550

2,695

1.29

3,835

 

Fishing pressure was highest at Fisherman’s Paradise, but catch rates were substantially lower than at the other reaches.  Fishing pressure was lowest in the Highway 550 reach, because of limited access.  At that time there was no public access and parking was limited.  The Benner Spring reach was entirely on public land and access was good; hence, fishing pressure was rather high.

 

At the same time that anglers were being surveyed, the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife-Research Unit was conducting studies to estimate the number of wild brown in each of these survey reaches.  With both population data and fishery data in hand, one can compute how often each age-1 and older trout (>6”) was caught by anglers.  The computation is simply catch/mile divided by estimated numbers of trout/mile.  At Fisherman’s Paradise, each brown trout was caught on average 5.4 times during the survey period.  In the Benner Spring reach, trout were captured 6.4 times.  It is noteworthy that there were no tackle restrictions at the Benner Spring reach and bait anglers accounted for 52% of the fishing pressure.  This was one of the first studies to demonstrate that successful catch-and-release trout fisheries can be maintained while still allowing the use of bait.

 

2006 Angler Survey

 

The Spring Creek Chapter of Trout Unlimited sponsored an angler-use survey on two reaches of Spring Creek starting on opening day and ending June 30, 2006.  The purpose of the survey was to estimate fishing pressure (angler hours) and compare results to those collected during a survey in 1988 and 1989.  One stream reach extended from the Highway 550 bridge upstream to the next bridge.  The other reach was Fisherman’s Paradise. 

 

The goal of the survey was to count all anglers in each reach once per day during the 78-day survey period.  Times of day, when counts were made, were randomly chosen. Counts were made by volunteers.  A total of 60 counts were made on the State Highway 550 reach and 50 counts at Fisherman’s Paradise.  The number of anglers counted per reach ranged from 0 to 34 and averaged about 8 anglers per count.

 

Fishing pressure in 2006 was substantially higher than in 1988-1989.  The increase was most dramatic in the State Highway 550 reach where angler-use increased from 1,318 hours/mile to 6,989 hours/mile - a 430% increase.  A change in ownership and improved access surely contributed to some of this increase.  In 1988 and 1989, all land along the State Highway 550 reach was in private ownership, though there was no posting.  Now most of the reach is owned by the PA Fish and Boat Commission, and there is ample parking.  At Fisherman’s Paradise, use increased from 4,068 to 8,146 angler-hours/mile - a 100% increase.  Of course here, all lands surrounding the Paradise have been and remain in public ownership with good access.

 

            Volunteers did not interview anglers; hence, we do not know the length of each fishing trip.  In 1988 and 1989, trip length ranged from 4.1 to 5.6 hours.  If we use 4.75 hours for the average trip length, then the estimated number of fishing trips for the two reaches ranged from about 1,471 to 1,715 trips/mile.

Clearly, fishing pressure on Spring Creek is quite high.  To put these data in perspective, we can compare results with a statewide survey of wild trout streams that was conducted by the Fish and Boat Commission in 2004.  They surveyed two size classes of streams - those less than 6 meters (about 20 feet) wide and those more than 6 meters wide, which included Spring Creek.  From a survey that included 200 stream segments, it was estimated that the larger streams had 239 angler-hours/mile from opening day to September 3, 2004.  Hence, the surveyed reaches in Spring Creek had 29 to 34 times more fishing pressure than large trout streams statewide, even though the Spring Creek census in 2006 did not include July and August.

 

Robert Carline