MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) Starting this week, Vermont Fish and Wildlife will send out a survey to anglers throughout the state. Like the census, this survey is something the department does every 10 years to learn more about anglers.
Right now, license sales are down and the department hopes this information can help them and the state moving forward. Our Ike Bendavid sat down with the biologist leading the survey to find out more about what they hope to learn from anglers.
Reporter Ike Bendavid: I'm joined by Fish and Wildlife Biologist Bret Ladago. We are talking about a survey for the new year, 2020, for anglers. Now, why are you doing this survey?
Bret Ladago: This is a survey that we have been doing since the '90s. We conduct it every 10 years and sent out by mail. It looks at attitudes and opinions and the status of fishing opportunities, fishing regulations in Vermont. So, it's a really valuable tool we use for a bunch of different reasons and for information that we use for management decisions. And it gives us a snapshot on how people feel about what we are doing and the opportunities we have for fishing in Vermont.
Ike Bendavid: Who is getting this survey? Is this for every angler in the state?
Bret Ladago: This is a randomly generated survey... We use the pool of 2019 license sales database and we randomly select about 6,000 anglers. They are separated by five different areas in the state. And we also look at out-of-state anglers and we send that out to them and they fill that out. If you are licensed 2019 anglers, then you are already entered into that pool and there is a chance that you might get this survey. And it's really important that you respond and we can use this information to help better what we are doing here.
Ike Bendavid: And that random snapshot is to give a different opportunity to different types of anglers?
Bret Ladago: Yeah, exactly. It's an unbiased way of looking at all the anglers that we have. There is no specific... say if you are a fly angler, we are going to weight you evenly to somebody else who likes to fish with worms. We want to hear from all those different groups and all those different types of anglers to see how they feel about things we are doing here.
Ike Bendavid: Is this something easy to fill out?
Bret Ladago: It's a little bit long, maybe a little longer than most surveys. But depending on what you're fishing for, you can fill out what applies to you. So, if you don't go out ice fishing, you only fill out the parts that are open water fishing. It's got about 40 questions and about 14 pages long but that doesn't mean you will be filling out every page.
Ike Bendavid: What's the context of this? What's the information you are going to get from here? What are you going to use that for?
Bret Ladago: We ask questions that pertain to all sorts of fishery management questions to what type of fish you are angling for, what's your preferred fish species to catch? We have seen in the past that brook trout have been a preferred species for a lot of people but we are also seeing a shift toward bass, so maybe we will see a shift there? That information can be used to look at a trend through time. So, we can say this was a snapshot through the '90s-2000s and now 2020, and we can see how those opinions and attitudes have changed over the last 30 years.
Ike Bendavid: For the anglers and the Vermonters watching, could this then have an impact to someone like you, a biologist, and the way you go around your job and the information you get?
Bret Ladago: Absolutely. All of our regulations are based on some biological component of the fishery. We set regulations to help protect certain species or ages of fish, so it provides a good angling opportunity and good, healthy fish populations. But there is also a big social component to our regulations. They need to be understood so they can be followed by the general public. We don't want to set regulations that are too complex without weighing in those social things about it so we can use that information to help inform those decisions and maybe decide on regulations that may have a little more of a social consideration as composed to just strictly biological.