Lowry, D., K. Stick, A. Lindquist, and Y. W. Cheng. 2015. Evaluation of Creel Survey Methods to Estimate Recreational Harvest of Surf Smelt in Puget Sound, Washington. North American Journal of Fisheries Management 35:403-417, 2015 DOI 10.1080/02755947.2015.1009658.
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Abstract: Fisheries for Surf Smelt Hypomesus pretiosus in the inland marine waters of Washington State are currently managed under the assumption that annual recreational harvest is roughly similar to commercial harvest. Commercial harvest is monitored by submission of mandatory fish tickets that document sales to licensed vendors. Assessment of recreational effort and harvest is complicated by (1) the lack of a licensing requirement for fishers, (2) the fact that fishing occurs throughout the year but tends to peak during locally specific time windows, and (3) the ability of anglers to engage in the fishery from private shorelines in addition to public access points (e.g., boat ramps). To adequately estimate recreational harvest, a survey method must be developed that accounts for spatiotemporally diverse harvest patterns. Here, we report the results of a pilot study that combined access-point and roving, boat-based creel survey techniques to sample a known region of high recreational fishing pressure during the traditional fishing “season” for Surf Smelt. In addition to providing a statistically valid estimate of harvest at these locations, we described patterns of both fishing effort and catch across time, in association with various environmental variables, and at public access points and private beaches. We found that based on the sitespecific estimates generated here and the number of high-use recreational fishing sites in Puget Sound, Surf Smelt harvest has the capacity to exceed the level that has been assumed for purposes of management. We conclude that combining access-point surveys and roving creel counts represents a logistically feasible and cost-effective method for estimating recreational harvest of Surf Smelt throughout Puget Sound or harvest in any other fishery with similarly complex spatiotemporal participation.