Angler Catch and Harvest of Targeted Sportfishes in Small Georgia Lakes

Public fishing areas (PFAs) in Georgia are intensively managed freshwater impoundments that provide a variety of fishing opportunities to an- glers. Management efforts and fishing regulations at these PFAs depend on understanding basic aspects of recreational fishing pressure, catch, and har- vest. Accordingly, we conducted a roving creel survey during January–December 2013 at Marben PFA in middle Georgia to quantify sport fishing total effort, catch, harvest, and fish catch by species, number, and weight in 14 lakes. Almost all of the anglers interviewed (84% of the 1159 parties) targeted a preferred species; of these anglers, 34.7% targeted a second species, and 5.7% targeted a third species. Sunfish (Lepomis spp.) ranked highest among pri- mary, secondary, and tertiary targeted species, whereas channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) was the highest ranked quaternary targeted species. Large- mouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) ranked second among primary, tertiary, and quaternary targeted species. Catches and harvest of targeted sportfish in Marben PFA varied considerably by species. Sunfish were the most abundant species by number caught (37 fish ha–1) and harvested (19 fish ha–1; 2.25 kg–1) for the entire survey period. Black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus) had the lowest reported catch (2.03 ha–1) and second lowest observed harvest 0.50 kg ha–1), but largemouth bass had the lowest observed harvest in number (0.42 ha–1) and observed weight (0.41 kg ha–1). Rankings of species targeted by Marben anglers differed from those of other Georgia anglers, who targeted largemouth bass most, followed by sunfish and channel catfish. These findings imply that Georgia PFA fishery managers may give consideration to site-specific management objectives when developing or managing local fisheries rather than relying on state summary statistics. The smaller profile and intensive management of the Marben PFA impound- ments benefited anglers of varying skill levels and backgrounds equally, making it an ideal setting for recruiting new anglers while still challenging experienced anglers.

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