5 Details That Will Boost Your Survey Value

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      Tony Curless

        I recently checked in with Region 4 Fisheries Biologist Justin Spinelli and learned that some of the data that’s most valuable to WDFW biologists and high lakes fishery management may not be obvious when recording and submitting lake surveys. The following information deserves special attention and should be included in your surveys whenever possible.

        Access changes – Report any changes to access trails or roads that may impact visitor traffic, such as closures/blockages, detours/bypasses, new trails created, etc. This matters because angling mortality is one of the most important considerations when deciding how many fish to stock, and any change in the number of anglers visiting a lake will necessitate a change in management.

        Evidence of overuse by visitors – Report damage to vegetation around the lake and along the trails, trash left behind, etc. Record the number and condition of campsites and fire rings. This information is another indicator of changes in use patterns and angling which could necessitate management changes.

        Changes in trout reproduction status – Provide accurate measurements of ALL fish caught whenever possible. It’s also helpful to include approximate size of fish observed cruising, as well as fish reported caught by other anglers not in your party. Biologists and fishery management can reference this information against the stocking data to indicate the presence of natural reproduction.

        Verification of survival of recent fry plants – Report any fish you find that are 1-2” long. Check inlets, outlets, shorelines, shallows, and around cover. Aside from confirming the survival of recent fry plants, this is also important because it reveals the presence of fry that was stocked illegally.

        Results from experiments – Biologists are especially keen to receive data for ongoing projects, such as the tiger trout experiments at Forest and Lonesome Lakes in Pierce County. And don’t forget about this year’s list of Checkout/Survey Lakes on the Member Forum (login required).

        Make use of the General Comments field
        So where do you enter this data? When submitting your survey online, any data mentioned above that does not fit neatly into a corresponding field should be entered under General Comments (step 5 of the survey data entry process). This is one of the most important survey data fields, and one of the most commonly skipped. Members are encouraged to note everything they think could be significant.

        Learn more
        For a comprehensive understanding of the survey process and all related data fields refer to the Volunteered High Lake Surveys Field Data Collection Guidelines in the member’s only section (login required). This 20-page document was carefully prepared by former WDFW Fishery Management Biologist and Hi-Laker, Bob Pfeifer. You can also find a brief description of common data fields on the printable High Lakes Fishing Report form.

        You can always reach out to our survey team with any questions on the subject. Contact Eric Fickeisen with questions about the survey program and annual list of checkout lakes. Contact Brian Curtis with questions related to the survey database, data fields, and data collection in the field. Or contact Jon Jones for information about survey tools available for purchase, including the Trout Identification Card.

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