Data collected for fishing forecast, future fisheries management decisions

For most outdoorsmen and women, fall is the time to hang up the fishing rod and dust off the rifle, shotgun, or bow. For the fisheries biologist, however, it's one of the busiest times of the year, time to sample lakes to determine the health of fisheries. Fall is the best time to sample fish because it’s the end of the growing season.

The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP) has completed its fall fish sampling, and biologists are in the process of compiling information. This data is used for the following year's stocking requests, recommendations for future length and creel limit regulations, other management recommendations, and the Fishing Forecast upon which anglers rely.

Across the state, 18 district fisheries biologist annually sample 26 large reservoirs, 40 state fishing lakes, and more than 220 community lakes. During this time, they average 40 eight- to 12-hour days on the water and in the office compiling and entering data.

In September, fisheries biologists may use electroshocking for bass, and in October and November, gill-nets and traps are used to sample all sportfish. The nets are massive, and each must be pulled onto a boat and the fish removed. Biologists then separate, count, weigh, and measure each fish, and record all this information, all the while taking care to get the biggest, most desirable fish back in the water quickly.

A single biologist may weigh 10,000 fish each fall, often in severe weather, contending with sharp spines, slippery fish, rain, snow, and wind. Netting results are recorded on waterproof paper or a laptop computer.

Computers have made data keeping much more accurate. Biologists can enter data on the water and enter it into the department's Aquatic Data Analysis System (ADAS) when they get back to the office. ADAS allows biologists to enter paper-recorded testing data into the system through a desktop computer or directly from data recorded on a laptop in the field, eliminating paperwork. They can then generate a report immediately that lets them know the population dynamics of the lake tested and make management decisions -- from stocking plans to length and creel limits -- in a timely fashion.

Another innovative tool fisheries biologists are using is the Fisheries Analysis and Simulation Tools (FAST) software program, developed in conjunction with 20 other states. This program allows the field biologist to use data from the ADAS system and separate age and growth testing to predict what would happen if certain length or creel limits were imposed on a given lake. Tools such as this not only take much of the guesswork out of managing a lake, they allow biologists to spend more time on other projects.

Now that the 2005 fall fishing sampling is complete, it should be a few weeks before all data has been compiled and entered into the system. Then anglers across Kansas can look forward to the 2006 Kansas Fishing Forecast, which will be available on the KDWP website, www.kdwp.state.ks.us.