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Effect of a No-Kill Regulation on Brown Trout in Oatka Creek (2000-2004)


Oatka Creek

Oatka Creek is a high quality western New York trout stream. Fisheries resources in certain areas within the stream are managed by stocking hatchery raised yearling and two-year-old brown trout (Salmo trutta). Another section of the stream is managed for wild, naturally produced brown trout with restrictive harvest regulations. The trout fishing regulations in a portion of the wild area were changed from a high size and low creel limit to a no kill regulation on October 1, 2000. The trout fishing regulation in the stocked area was changed on October 1, 2002 from a five fish of any size creel limit to a regulation that limits the number of large trout that can be harvested (5 per day any size with no more than 2 larger than 12 inches, known as the "5/2" regulation). Creel censuses were conducted prior to (2000), immediately after (2001) and three years after (2004), the regulation changes. The 2000 and 2001 surveys found that immediately after implementing a no kill regulation, total angler effort, total catch, and total harvest in both survey areas (wild and stocked) increased in similar proportions among management types and months. Catch rates remained the same between the two years among management types and months, and harvest rates in the stocked areas were the same. As expected, harvest rates in the wild area immediately dropped from a low rate to nearly zero, but the near zero harvest rate unexpectedly did not persist in 2004. In 2004, effort in the wild area was higher than 2000. It is not likely that the implementation of the no kill regulation alone induced higher fishing pressure in the wild area, since effort was higher in both the stocked and wild areas in 2001 compared to both 2000 and 2004. Favorable air temperature and stream flow conditions were probably the reason why higher angler effort occurred in 2001, immediately after the no kill regulation change, because 2000 and 2004 had similar unfavorable weather and stream flow conditions. The 2000 and 2001 surveys also determined that under the right weather and flow conditions, anglers targeting the larger stocked two-year-old brown trout were very successful at catching and creeling these fish immediately after they were stocked. Stocked area effort, catch, and harvest in 2004 were the lowest of the three survey years. The 2004 catch and harvest of large (>12"TL) brown trout from the stocked area were also the lowest of the three years surveyed. In 2004, the wild area catch and catch rates of large brown trout were the same as 2000 and 2001. The implementation of the no kill regulation did not induce an increase in the catch rate of, or the number of anglers catching, large brown trout in the wild area. Reduced angler effort, catch, and harvest rates of large brown trout may have been the result of the implementation of the "5/2"regulation, but the implementation of the "5/2"regulation does not appear to have appreciably spread the harvest of large brown trout among more anglers over a longer period of time in the stocked area as well as unannounced stocking did.

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