New research is helping fisheries biologists across 12 states better manage smallmouth bass populations/
New research is helping fisheries biologists across 12 states better manage smallmouth bass populations/.

Excise taxes coming from fishing-tackle manufacturers and motorboat fuel have funded a research program across 13 states that focused on growth rates of smallmouth bass in streams and rivers. The findings will provide fisheries biologists with information necessary for determining the quality of fisheries and when making regulation recommendations.

The research filled a missing gap, as predictive models of age and growth rates are used for smallmouth bass living in lakes, but are rare for stream-based fish. Growth models determine the size of the population, provide data for use in comparing fisheries, and help determine fishing regulations. Thirteen states across different regions were included in the research. River smallies from New York State to Minnesota and down to North Carolina and Oklahoma were studied. Fisheries managers now have another tool for improving the quality of both fisheries and angling.

Trevor Starks and Anthony Rodger, two Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation stream biologists, conducted the research, gathering 11,000 data points along the way. According to Fishing Tackle Retailer, the biologists used age and growth information from two different body parts: ear bones and scales. Fish must be killed to study an ear bone while scales allow the captured fish to be released. The cross reference is important as scales are less reliable than ear bones. Their study was published in the North American Journal of Fisheries Management.

Established in 1950, the Sport Fish Restoration Program was created to improve America’s declining fisheries. Through the purchases of fishing equipment, motorboat and small-engine fuels, and import duties, the SFR Program is one of the most successful user pay, user benefit programs.