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Ischua Creek Creel Survey (2008)

From April 1st through October 15th, 2008, DEC fisheries staff conducted an angler use survey on Ischua Creek, in Cattaraugus County. In the survey, we counted anglers on the stream and interviewed anglers to learn where they were fishing, what they were catching and to gather their opinions on trout stream management issues. Anglers were surveyed four days per week in April, May and June and two days per week in the July-October period. The survey was also part of an evaluation of the stream's catch and release regulation section. Also in 2008, we conducted an electrofishing survey in the catch and release section to estimate trout populations and the results can be found in the Ischua Creek Fisheries Survey summary.

Angler Interviews

Overall, we conducted 702 angler interviews, 53% (372) of which were conducted in April. Angler interviews were quite evenly split between the two stocked sections (mouth to Pierce Hill Road and Pierce Hill Road to Franklinville) with 333 and 301 interviews respectively. Sixty eight interviews were conducted with anglers using the catch and release section. Overall, 56% of anglers interviewed rated their fishing experience as satisfactory, while 44% rated it as unsatisfactory. In the catch and release section, 43% of anglers interviewed rated their fishing experience as satisfactory, while 57% rated it as unsatisfactory. Sixty one percent of anglers interviewed were fishing with bait, while 24% were using artificial lures and 15% were fishing with flies. Of the 425 interviewed anglers that were aware of the catch and release section on Ischua Creek and had an opinion, 388 (91%) said they approved of the regulation. The majority of the anglers interviewed were residents of Cattaraugus County (54%), with the next largest number coming from Erie County (27%). Only 32 (4%) of the anglers interviewed were from outside DEC Region 9, including 24 non-residents.

A total of 915 trout were reported to have been caught by anglers interviewed in the survey. Of this total, 726 (79%) were reported to have been released and 188 were creeled. The breakdown by species of trout caught was 742 brown trout (81% released), 172 brook trout (74% released) and one rainbow trout. Of the creeled fish examined by the survey clerk, all but one were hatchery trout.

When interview data was expanded for all anglers and the season as a whole, there was an estimated fishing effort of 15,464 hours (6,601 trips), or 206 hours/acre of stream. This is considered "moderate" fishing pressure in New York State. Opening day accounted for 10% of the total effort in April and 5% of the total effort for the season. April was the month with the most estimated effort (7,696 hrs) and accounted for 50% of the total effort for the season. May was the next most heavily fished month (22% of the season total); while none of the remaining months exceeded 10% of the total effort. All three sections of the stream had statistically similar use on an area basis (196 hours/acre in lower stocked section, 225 hours/acre in the upper stocked section and 203 hours/acre in the catch and release section).

Total Estimated Trout Catch

The estimated catch of trout for the entire season was 12,595 fish, of which 9,985 (79%) were brown trout and the remainder brook trout. Virtually all of the catch were hatchery trout. A total of 11,160 brown trout and 2,200 brook trout were stocked in Ischua Creek in 2008. For the stream as a whole, the catch rate for brown trout was 0.59 fish/hour and for brook trout it was 0.14 fish/hour. The brown trout catch rate was highest in the lower stocked section (0.71 fish/hour), followed by the catch and release section (0.66 fish/hour) and the upper stocked section (0.45 fish/hour). Brook trout catch rates ranged from 0 in the lower stocked section to 0.94 fish/hour in the catch and release section. Anglers on 68% of all the complete trip interviews (121 of 179 interviews) reported catching no trout. The average length of completed fishing trips was 2.34 hours.

Reasons For Survey

The primary reason for conducting the electrofishing and angler use surveys in 2008 was to evaluate the effectiveness of the catch and release regulation in meeting the five objectives set out when it was implemented in 2004. The objectives for the catch and release section (CRS) were as follows:

1. Maintain use as high or higher than other sections of the stream with the use distributed so April will account for less than 40% of the total and more than 25% of the use occurs after July first.
2. Maintain an angler catch rate of at least 1.0 trout/hour through the entire fishing season.
3. The majority (>50%) of the anglers using the section are satisfied with their angling experience.
4. The number/mile of wild brown trout >14 inches should remain at or above 20/mile in the CRS.
5. The wild trout biomass should increase to at least 70 lbs/acre.

The first objective dealt with the amount and distribution of use by anglers in the CRS. On an area basis, the amount of use in 2008 was nearly equal between the all three sections. The pattern of angler use throughout the season was substantially different in the CRS than in the other two sections. Outside the CRS, angler use was greatly weighted to early April. In the CRS, only 22% of the use was in April and 44% of the use came after July 1st. From this standpoint, the CRS adequately met its objective of redistributing angler use through the entire spring and summer period.

The second objective involved angler catch rates. In New York, stocked trout streams managed with catch and release regulations are expected to maintain an average angler catch rate of at least 1.0 fish/hour during each month of the season, or twice the expected catch rate for other high quality stocked streams, with state-wide regulations. In 2008, the average catch rate for brown trout in the CRS was 0.66 fish/hour for the entire season, below the objective of 1.0 fish/hour. It is likely that this lower catch rate is a combined result of poor survival of stocked brown trout in the CRS as well as a wild brown trout population that was substantially reduced from past surveys (see Fisheries Survey Summary). The stocking of surplus brook trout in the CRS, substantially increased catch rates for anglers. When the average catch rate for brook trout (0.94 fish/hour) is added to the brown trout catch rate, anglers had an overall average catch rate of 1.60 fish/hour for the entire season, exceeding the objective of 1.0 fish/hour. The brook trout were stocked in addition to the recommended numbers of brown trout, so the 1.60 fish/hour can be considered an "inflated" value. However, when the near complete loss of the pre-season stocking increment of brown trout is taken into consideration, the density of trout in the CRS, including the surplus brook trout that produced the 1.60 fish/hour catch rate, might more closely represent what the CRS section is capable of producing with good survival of stocked trout.

The third objective (a majority of anglers being satisfied with their fishing experiences in the CRS,) was not met in the 2008 survey. In the CRS, 43% of anglers interviewed who had either a positive or negative opinion of their fishing (non-neutral), rated their fishing experience as "satisfactory", while 57% rated it as "unsatisfactory". The majority of anglers using the CRS (and the stream as a whole) rated their experience as "neutral". A number of factors likely go into how an angler rates their "satisfaction" with the trip including how many trout they catch, how big the trout are, what the weather is like and how easy the section is to access and fish.

The final two objectives for the CRS involved the status of the wild brown trout population. The objective of having wild brown trout >14 inches at a density of at least 20 fish/mile was met in 2008, with 20 fish/mile >14 inches being found in the August electrofishing survey. The final objective was for the biomass of wild brown trout to reach it's calculated carrying capacity of 70 lbs/acre. The estimated biomass of wild brown trout this year was 17 lbs/ac compared with 27 lbs/ac in 2004 and 39 lbs/ac in 1997. As was discussed in the Fisheries Survey Summary, poor reproduction in 2006 and 2007 is believed to be responsible for the wild brown trout population being reduced from 1997 and 2004 levels. Whether the population can ever reach the carrying capacity estimate of 70 lbs/ac, given the possible recruitment limitations of the spawning tributaries, is an ongoing question that has little to do with the regulations being applied to this section.

Ischua Survey Summary

In summary, two of the five objectives for the catch and release regulation were met in Ischua Creek for 2008. When you take into account poor survival of stocked brown trout, low wild trout numbers and surplus brook trout stocking, the objective for angler catch rate might also be considered to have been met. For anglers interviewed on the stream overall, there appeared to be very strong approval of the catch and release regulation section (91%), regardless of whether the anglers had fished in that section or not. The results of the angler use survey do not give strong support for either keeping or for removing the catch and release regulation.

Angler Input Needed

A decision will need to be made in this regard by May, 2010, as regulation changes for 2012 need to be submitted by that time. The Region 9 Fisheries office will be meeting with angler groups during the winter of 2009-2010 and soliciting input by e-mail or standard mail to gather input from anglers on whether to keep or remove this regulation. If you wish to comment on this regulation, please address comments to: Region 9 Fisheries Manager, NYSDEC, 182 E. Union St. #3, Allegany, NY 14706 or e-mail at fwfish9@gw.dec.state.ny.us. Please be sure to let us know the reason why you would like to see the regulation change or remain the same.