A Hook and Line Assessment and Angler Survey of the Tallapoosa River Fishery (Alabama, USA)
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures
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Angler satisfaction is one of many fundamental objectives in the adaptive evaluation of flow prescriptions below R. L. Harris Dam on the Tallapoosa River in Alabama. We have collected fishery specific information to inform future management decisions related to flow regimes. Quantification of the fishery resource below R.L. Harris Dam was conducted using hook and line sampling from canoes and kayaks by multiple anglers during several seasons and three years and over a range of flow conditions. This allowed for an assessment of conditions that may have influenced angler catch statistics in the river. Regulated and unregulated reaches of the river were fished by 2-4 anglers during three different seasons: spring, summer and fall (2013 and 2014). Angling was conducted during different water conditions including river hydrology, water temperature, and weather conditions. Small spinner baits were trolled behind the boats in an attempt to present lures to most species of sport fish (i.e., Micropterus spp., Lepomis spp., Morone spp. and Ictalurus punctatus). We recorded each capture encounter in the river during each sampling trip; individual fish were weighed and measured and harvest-per-unit-effort (# fish/angler hour) was calculated by species and by angler. Water temperature was recorded at beginning of sampling trips using a thermometer. Hydrologic data were collected from USGS gages and various metrics were summarized for the angling days. Stepwise multiple regression models were constructed to evaluate impacts of environmental and physical variables on angler catch. Results indicated that water temperature was positively correlated with harvest-per-unit-effort at all study sites and discharge was negatively correlated. The unregulated reach above the dam had the most diverse catch consisting of eight species. Catch rates varied among seasons and river reach; highest catch rates were observed in the spring in the middle reach below Harris Dam (4.21 fish/h); whereas, the lowest catch rates were also observed in the spring at the site most downstream from the dam (0.38 fish/h). A mail survey was used to quantify Tallapoosa River angler demographics, preferences and desired fishing conditions. The mail survey was sent to 2000 fishing license holders in counties surrounding the Tallapoosa River between the Georgia state line and Lake Martin, Alabama. An online survey was also available for those anglers who did not receive a mail survey. Signs were posted at access points along the river with instructions for anglers to take the online survey. Surveyed anglers targeted catfishes and black basses; 55% of the survey respondents were satisfied with the catch rates that averaged 2.04 fish per hour. The average angler was an older white male. Anglers would like to have more days where the river was more suitable to boating. Fishing the Tallapoosa River was an important tradition to the participants in the survey; they do it to be outdoors, to enjoy nature, and for relaxation. Time, lack of access, and unknown water flow conditions were top reasons for not fishing on the Tallapoosa River. The results of both the fishery independent and angler survey for this river will help inform decisions related to management of the fishery and toward maintaining or increasing angler satisfaction. The models constructed can assist anglers to decide the river conditions and seasons for targeting certain species. Results from this study indicate that temperature and flow from R.L. Harris dam may influence recreation and angler satisfaction on the river.