Mapping Georgia’s trout fishery in space and time
Graduate students Hailey Yondo and Jenna Haag in the Warnell School of Forestry at the University of Georgia have been collaborating on a project with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to map the supply and demand of trout in Georgia. Hailey has been working with the demand side of the fishery equation while Jenna has been focusing on the supply.
Jenna has been analyzing the biological aspects of the project, exploring questions such as where trout have been sampled in the past, where trout are being stocked by the DNR, and where trout currently persist. Her project aims to combine her own research, as well as Hailey’s, to map the current supply of trout and model future distributions. The goal of Jenna’s project is to map the overlap of supply and demand of the trout resource and identify any gaps between the two, along with predicting future stream temperatures to determine where trout can persist in a warming climate. Her research area consists of 38 counties in Northern Georgia, bordering South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama. She is working on building an air temperature to stream temperature model to determine where trout habitat may be lost in the future under different warming scenarios. She states that most of the trout in Georgia already live on the upper edge of their thermal tolerance and her job is to predict the amount of already limited trout habitat that will be lost due to various factors, including climate change.
Hailey Yondo’s research project similarly focuses on where people are currently trout fishing, where they are coming from, and where the pressure is in hopes of figuring out where trout fishing may be available in the future in comparison to where it is available now. Soliciting information from trout anglers is critical in figuring out the most efficient way to stock trout. Hailey’s project sent a survey out to 4000 trout anglers, 1000 of which had lifetime licenses that are typically purchased for hunting. Questions asked included anglers’ satisfaction with the fishery, whether they kept or released their fish, if they used private or public land, if they were going to fish next year, and what type of bait they used. Results were broken down by bait type and the DNR was impressed with how satisfied people were. Hailey has created heat maps to show where people fish based on recorded trips to each county and zip code. The survey also asked anglers whether they thought that the trout license cost should be increased or reduced and why, as well as whether they would rather catch one big trout or two smaller trout. As a result, the DNR recently increased the price of the trout license because more people said that they would tolerate an increase over a reduction as long as the extra money was put toward conservation. The DNR is also going to start raising trout to a larger size for stocking and stock more frequently year-round. This poses new questions for research: Will stocking trout year-round change seasonality? When will people be angling if it becomes available year-round?