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Survey Says! Trout Trout Trout

Blog by: Ben Swigle 5/14/2013

When my daughter was born, I received a copy of the children’s book, “Trout, Trout, Trout: A Fish Chant.” A thoughtful gift for a first-time dad planning to incorporate angling as the means to building lifelong bonds. The illustrations are superb and create a personality for each fish youngsters can quickly learn to identify. There is no dust on this paperback. It dawned on me the book’s title could just as well serve as the headliner for a 2012 angler survey conducted by Stacy Lischka, a human dimensions specialist with Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Lischka mailed a 12-page survey to 3,000 individuals who had purchased a fishing license in 2011. The response was tremendous, with return mailings coming from residents and nonresidents in all corners of Colorado and the nation.

Among anglers of all types, the four most commonly targeted species were rainbow trout (23 percent), brown trout (17 percent), cutthroat trout (12 percent) and lake trout (11 percent). All anglers desired an increase in angling opportunity for each species of trout.

I was slightly disheartened given the fact each Front Range and Eastern Plains CPW fishery biologist extends an entire month producing and distributing walleye, a warm-water species that only 4 percent of respondents noted they fished for.  I am among those targeting walleye as #1 but high mountain brook and cutthroat trout are a close #2 on my list.  Anglers targeting northern pike and tiger muskie was extremely low; even less than walleye seekers, coming in at 3.7%.

A summary of the findings can be found here:

Despite the low affinity among walleye anglers, the CPW hatchery system is currently in tune with the desires of the trout-happy enthusiasts who roam Colorado waters. Of the existing 17 CPW hatchery facilities, 13 almost exclusively produce trout.

Just north of Fort Collins, the Bellvue-Watson Hatchery and Rearing Unit, a cold-water facility, raises rainbow trout, rainbow/cutthroat trout hybrids, cutthroat trout and brown trout. The Watson Lake Rearing Unit raises approximately 300,000 10-inch catchable trout each year. The Bellvue Fish Hatchery annually produces 1.5 million sub-catchable trout measuring 2-5 inches at the time of stocking.

The Watson Hatchery offers informational and educational material, self-guided tours from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day of the year, guided group tours by appointment and opportunity for visitors to feed the fish thanks to a coin-operated dispenser.

“The Watson hatchery is located near the Cache la Poudre River and Watson Lake State Wildlife Area,’’ hatchery manager Jesse Faue said. “Besides offering visitors an insider’s look at how trout are produced, the surrounding area offers fishing, bird watching and nature trails making this an excellent education and recreation destination.”

On a side note, the blogs I have written in the past about trout have been viewed at an extremely faster rate relative to walleye.  Stats and angler interviews are extremely valuable.

Go Fish Colorado!

Blog content © Ben Swigle
Blog Comments
FISHRANGLER, CO   5/14/2013 9:11:55 PM
i wonder how many of those anglers fish more then twice a week? Good blog Ben It answers some questions I had as to why the DPW favors trout so much.
moosegoose, CO   5/14/2013 10:00:56 PM
Numbers never lie!! Great blog!!
moosegoose, CO   5/14/2013 10:04:08 PM
"Infrequent anglers were not satisfied with the number and size of fish they caught and the complexity of the fishing regulations in Colorado." - - - Ben, aside from the numbers, I think that also shows up here on this website too.
panfishin, CO   5/15/2013 8:18:08 AM
would it be possible to see the survey? i have always found that being able to look both at the results along side the questions helps see everything. good study too, what was the breakdown of species targeted in the two seperate categories (resident vs non-resident) out of curiosity?
Vanish, CO   5/15/2013 8:18:41 AM
Boggles my mind. I LOVE catching NATIVE trout, but slimers just don't it for me at all.
Coyute, CO   5/15/2013 8:46:38 AM
I would be interested to see a survey of the more serious anglers. I bet the numbers would be drastically different. I bet most Colorado natives learn on the trout, like I did, and start fishing for a superior species once the paltry trout no longer interests them. Thanks for the info.
Coyute, CO   5/15/2013 8:47:10 AM
panfishin, there is a link to the survey in the blog.
panfishin, CO   5/15/2013 9:13:54 AM
yea i saw that, i would like to see that actual questions from the survey that lead to those results. one of the bullet points confused me a bit and maybe i'm just reading it wrong....CO angler spent the highest mean # of days fishing for carp, wiper and striped bass, and bluegill but were the least commonly targeted species...?
Coyute, CO   5/15/2013 9:21:34 AM
I was e-mailed the full report (64 pgs) in PDF format panfishin. If you'd like me to forward it to you send me an e-mail (my screen name)
tracks, CO   5/15/2013 9:44:58 AM
Great information as is usual Ben. I'm with the some of other guys in that a survey of the more "serious" fishermen would be interesting to see. I myself have caught what seems like millions of trout over the years on DOW/DPW's well tended creeks, rivers and lakes. I would like to have similar attention paid to the non-trout fisheries in Colorado, I see this happening a bit more of recent but I think more might be better. Then again I can drive for ten minutes or less and fish for and catch SMB,LMB, Gills, crappie, Wiper Walleye and brown trout in several different bodies of water, that's nice.
PowerBaiter, CO   5/15/2013 10:22:32 AM
I agree with others, 12" stocker rainbow trout are boring, and do not take skill to catch. Serious anglers want large bass and walleyes, or native trout. Regs are not confusing, but assuming this sample size prob most interested in eating trout as often as possible.
nobullfishing, CO   5/15/2013 11:27:58 AM
Coyute n fishrangler are just haters who need a better perspective. Numbers don't lie. It's funny, every trout angler hat I know would counter your comments. Just my $0.02.
Fishful Thinker, CO   5/15/2013 11:38:01 AM
I find it hard to believe there is no mention of black bass anglers. A couple years ago I interviewed a public relations person from CPW (DOW at that time) and he stated that the current survey at that time had trout as the most demanded (no surprise) and bass and walleyes statistically tied for second place. Thoughts?
nobullfishing, CO   5/15/2013 11:46:38 AM
It's quite simple FT. We live in Colorado, and I forgot, what's our state's fish?
FXA0, CO   5/15/2013 11:50:06 AM
I am not a statistician or a scientist but here are some of my observations on the survey: (1) Your sample was 50% resident and 50% non-resident. I would think that this isn’t a representative sample because my intuition is that the number of resident licenses sold is greater than the number of nonresident licenses. Is there a difference in fishing preferences for resident vs. nonresident? Colorado is known for trout and I would think that people from out of state come here for trout, which would skew the numbers. With this said, based on my experience, I do believe trout to be the most popular specie in Colorado. (2) I understand that your agency should cater to the public’s needs but consider this conundrum: in your management surveys, anglers seem to target the species that are abundant in that fishery. Would that not be a case of the dog chasing its tail, i.e. the CPW is convinced that trout are popular, ergo it stocks trout, ergo trout are popular, ergo the CPW stocks more trout... For example, the surveys for Lonetree, Jackson, and North Sterling indicate that walleyes and wipers are the primary targets and I would suggest that it’s because those species are abundant in those lakes (,, Conversely, trout is clearly the primary target at Lon Hagler and it is because they are abundant in that lake, while walleyes and wipers are not ( It seems to me that the average angler just wants to catch what is available to them. All things being equal, focus should be on stocking and fostering species that are more cost effective to maintain and I am not convinced that stocking trout accomplishes that. (3) Is the raw data available somewhere? It looks like someone already has a copy of the full survey. I have sent you an email to request a copy. I will preface the rest of my response by stating that my opinion is biased because I target primarily warm water species. Again, I understand your agency should cater to the public and I also understand from experience that trout are widely popular. However, based on my fishing experience in neighboring states, it seems to me that we spend too much resource on stocking trout. My experience is that the fishing is better in Nebraska and Kansas. I understand that warmer climate is probably the main factor. But consider this: fishing licenses, vehicle passes, and camping fees in those neighboring states are lower than in Colorado. Yet, they manage to maintain facilities that are at least on par with Colorado. And their showers at camping facilities are free! I need quarters when I use Colorado shower facilities (I was very disappointed the first time I tried to use the showers only to find out that I needed quarters and didn’t have any)! I have not made an in depth inquiry into your agency’s budget but it seems to me the main difference is that Colorado spends a lot of resource on stocking trout, while those states do not spend as much resource on stocking fish. Part of it is that they don’t need to, but is trout stocking the most cost effective way to provide catchable fish?
panfishin, CO   5/15/2013 12:46:05 PM
Coyute, thanks for forwarding the report onto me...slow day at work =plenty of time to read and research :) i have gotten thru the analysis (the questions are at the very back) and the most telling information for me, and why bass and walleye dont even come close to being near the top of species targeted, is in Table 20 (pg 28) that breaks down where people fished most often. options were lakes/river @ low elevation, lake/reservoir @ in mountain, large river, small river/stream @ low elevation, small river/stream in mountain, and farm irrigation or other small ponds...45.5% said lake/reservoirs in MOUNTAINS, 21.5% said small river/stream in MOUNTAINS. thats 67% of the responses that said that they most fish places with very few opportunities for bass and walleye. after seeing that table alone its no surprise the way the results summary came out. bass came in a distant 5th in popularity at 5.6% eyes weren't far behind in 6th at 4.12% and pike/tigers were way down at 10th at 2.50%
FXA0, CO   5/15/2013 12:55:19 PM
@ panfishin: that's good insight. My guess is that the sample population was not a representative sample (the 50/50 split for residents/nonresidents alone suggests that something is not right). It would be interesting to see why.
panfishin, CO   5/15/2013 1:02:20 PM
again i love the survey and looking at the results are pretty interesting, but receiving only 1404 valid responses to the surveys mailed out compared to the 1,060,324 total licenses sold isn't much of a snap shot if you ask me (0.132% of all licensed fisherman.) would/could something like this type of survey be able to be done online thru their website? asking all of the guides, tackle shops, and fishing forums/sites to put a link to itcould help increase the total number of responses (especially from the fishing forums. have a spot where you punch in your license # to make sure that the tracking can be accurate and that people dont respond more than once. the downside to that would be that you would only likely capture the frequent and moderate anglers and miss the infrequent and probably most of the non-resident groups. i have no idea what kind of costs would occur from something like this, but at least the survey sample size would grow considerably...not saying that the results would be drastically different but it would be interesting to see how much they would change. thoughts? other ideas?
tracks, CO   5/15/2013 1:21:28 PM
Perhaps to to get a broader view CPW could do an online survey. You would made aware of this when buy your license. Or perhaps you actually "activate your license" by doing the the survey, not really a nice way to do it but you'd get the whole lot of us and our opinions.
Dangly, CO   5/15/2013 3:21:06 PM
My job is all about statistics, numbers lie constantly, anyone who says different is using numbers to make a point.
moosegoose, CO   5/15/2013 4:19:32 PM
Dangly, never thought of it that way!
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   5/15/2013 4:51:46 PM
The findings were broken down further by angler age, resident, and non. The was little difference between preferences among the various groups. I'll take a look at some of these comments and weigh when I have a little more time. Thanks for reading. Good comments. Stacy may post additional information soon.
FXA0, CO   5/15/2013 5:18:05 PM
@ panfishin and tracks: the sample size is fine. In fact, a sample size of 1,039 would have been sufficient to provide a survey with a 99% confidence level within a 4% confidence interval for a total population size of 1,060,324 anglers. Mailing questionnaires is also an adequate procedure. An online survey may actually lead to voluntary reporting, which could lead to a non representative sample. In addition, some people may not have access to the internet and you would be leaving those folks out. @ Dangly: the line “lies, damn lies, and statistics” ties into what you are saying and was popularized by Mark Twain. If your work involves statistics, maybe you can help shed light on this. My work doesn’t. I’m just using rusty knowledge from my school days… @ Ben: looking forward to some follow up comments from you.
Coyute, CO   5/15/2013 5:26:53 PM
No matter the numbers, how they are tweaked or the method of survey, IMO, trout are more of a side-show fish than a main-attraction fish. The selfish side of me is cool with that - more bass for me to catch and release and catch again. :)
FXA0, CO   5/15/2013 7:37:26 PM
Coyute, I normally don't get involved in "my favorite species vs. your favorite species" debates because those are largely statements of opinions and preferences. However, when the debate presents numbers, I think it's worth discussing. In addition, one of the stated objectives of the survey is "to help predict demand for sport fish species over the next 40 years.” I don't know what that means exactly, but the "40 years" part has me thinking we should pay attention to it. I was not suggesting that the numbers were "tweaked." I do want to understand the methodology to see if the figures presented accurately represent anglers who fish in Colorado. BTW, thanks again for forwarding me the longer write up. I am finally going to have some time to read it now.
Coyute, CO   5/15/2013 7:53:41 PM
Swigs offerings have certainly been a nice surprise. His blogs have made for some good reading ans has sparked some good discussion and debate. More please. :)
FishDr, CO   5/15/2013 9:02:03 PM
Thanks for an interesting blog and some very interesting information, Ben. While I'm most definitely on the "big predator" side of things, when I step back and put on my "Joe Public" hat, I understand why a lot of anglers might want to go out and catch trout - after all, this is Colorado and that is what we're famous for, just like TX is famous for big bass, or Minnesota is famous for walleyes. I'll be interested in seeing if/how this information plays into modifying the management strategies and goals.
ADub TT, CO   5/15/2013 10:33:39 PM
Great Stuff as usual Swigs! Roaring Judy, Finger Rock and Carbondale are few my fav stops when I'm out and about, Love the Judy!! Was good to hear you on Wickstrom's show last Saturday. You going to be regular guest??? A-Dub
FXA0, CO   5/15/2013 10:36:32 PM
I skimmed through the longer, 64 page report. There is a difference between target species for resident and nonresident anglers. For residents, the percentage of anglers targeting trout is in the teens. For nonresidents, the percentage is in the twenties. Because the sample size for residents and nonresidents is the same, even though there are twice as many resident licenses sold, the aggregate reported percentage of trout anglers is higher than it should be. This does not change the overall picture though: trout would still be the most popular game fish in Colorado. Doc, I hope this does not change management strategies in favor of more trout stocking. From my perspective, I am fairly satisfied with the status quo and I do recognize that Ben and others are doing a good job at keeping the lakes I fish stocked with an adequate population of walleyes : ) Sorry for the rants. FXA0 is out now.
Sleazy E, CO   5/16/2013 1:35:41 AM
Yet, they do not stock Watson Lake which is a trouts-throw away from the hatchery. Gotta point that out for people. The method of gathering empirical data for this "study" was illogical. No reasonable research was conducted. No strong outcome was concluded, so therefore the result is still in a hypothetical stage. FXAO is right such that the trout argument is a perpetual misinterpretation of data with simple correlations like this "study" being the meat and potatoes. Anyone who has ever learned about statistics knows that correlation does not prove causation. 3000 surveys may seem like a lot but it's small potatoes compared to something like the census which is still controversial and it's not a survey. Anyhow, I just used two "potato" idioms in one paragraph... study that!
Bassin the Wood, CO   5/16/2013 8:32:50 AM
What amazes me the most about this survey is how people ID themselves as species-specific anglers. I target all species of fish, following hot bites given the time of the year. In the spring I fish bass and walleye, in the summer brookies and cuts, and through the ice stocked trout and panfish. I wouldn't even be able to really honestly answer the question "which species do you fish for the most?" and I have to believe there are a lot of others who feel the same way. Realizing this fact, I'm envisioning a lot of those surveyed finally throwing their hands up and saying "I guess I fish for trout!"
shiverfix, CO   5/16/2013 9:01:09 AM
Remember, the members on this forum are here because they are avid fisherman. This forum is not going to be a good representation of the majority of anglers in Colorado. Just use your imperial evidence. When you go fishing, do you see more people targeting warm water species, or do you see more people bait dunking for trout? I would agree with a statement above, it is possible trout it popular because there are so many stocked and they are easy to catch on a worm. However, over two different nights on consecutive weekends at a local pond that has both warm water species and stocked trout, I saw a couple dozen people bait dunking for trout (and keeping everything they were catching), a couple people targeting warm water species (including myself), and one person actively fishing with a large swimbait. Also remember, out of state fisherman are more important than we are. Let me explain this thought process. When we go fishing, we might stop and get some snacks, we support a few local bait/tackle shops, and we spend some money on gas. When tourists come, they spend money on hotels, dining out, guides, etc… They bring more money into our economy, so they will be kept happy. Of course, I don’t see this applying to front range waters as much. They will be up in the mountains fishing for trout. With the number of angler on the front range, I like that they stock a bunch of worm eating trout. People can fill their stringers with those. Pretty much any of the front range ponds I have been to, catching bass hasn’t been a problem.
Dangly, CO   5/16/2013 3:29:57 PM
OK., In response to FXAO- Yes, the sample size is O.k., but Surveys done only on the preffernce of the surveyed are problematic, for example- If you survey 1,000 people who have drivers licenses with the question " What is your favorite car?" and 80% of the people replied that they favor Ferrari's, it does not therefore show that 80% of the people own a Ferrarri, nor dose it show that they are even in the market to buy a Ferrari. The state can take a lesson from people who make a living giving consumers what they want and First decide who the target audiance is that they want feedback from, i.e do we want our water management determined by people who, yes. buy a license but then only spend money on a jar or two of salmon eggs and a couple of bags of worm hooks over the space of a season, or people who spend a Thousand dollars a season on fishing gear. A real survey would have information from the people who sell fishing gear and see who spends what and have that influence the survey pool. Money talks B.S. is the property of the Government.
shiverfix, CO   5/16/2013 3:52:40 PM
Dangly, I disagree with your analogy. The survey asked what species they target, meaning what species they actively fish for. Your analogy implies a wish, not an action. A better analogy would be asking licensed drivers what car they drove.
Dangly, CO   5/16/2013 5:27:04 PM
my point was interest ( targeting") does not translate to investing (spending money). Targeting IS wishing, spending is committing. So if you ask local vendors of fishing goods what segment of fishing see's what expenditure you get a much clearer and more useful picture of what "serious" fisherman desire. I'm not saying that the results will change, but the data will be hard data.
FXA0, CO   5/16/2013 10:06:07 PM
I think shiverfix made a good point, Dangly. The survey is asking about targeted fish and shiverfix’ analogy is spot on. On your point about weighing angler’s input based on how much they spend on fishing gear or focusing on the “serious” anglers: I don’t believe how much an angler spends on gear goes into the CPW’s coffer, so why should they weigh that? What goes into their coffer is license fees, therefore it seems legitimate to say that and angler who fishes only once a year is as important to the CPW as an angler who fishes 200 times a year. Moderate and infrequent anglers outnumber frequent anglers by a wide margin. It would make no sense for the CPW to alienate those anglers just to satisfy the few “serious” anglers. Unfortunately, we are outnumbered, and you can’t make the majority pay for what the minority wants.
shiverfix, CO   5/16/2013 10:32:03 PM
And realistically, those who fish more often put more of a burden on the system than those who fish irregularly, so they cost the CPW more.
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   5/17/2013 8:21:22 AM
Ladies and gentlemen. My blogs are meant to be informative and offer the reader a brief look under the hood. Quite frankly the numbers offer some solid conclusions, under all categories and angler type, trout species make up more than 50% of the preferences for targeted species. Black bass (8%) and walleye (8%) numbers were a little better among annual resident license holders but not where the trout came in at. With that said, please keep in mind we must manage species that conform to the available habitat. Many sections of Colorado will favor trout because of the climate. In turn, eastarn plains reservoirs will favor bass, walleye, and wiper. A very small number of trout will be seasonally stocked in "warm" waters but comprise a tiny fraction of trout management.
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   5/17/2013 8:29:35 AM
As a results, we a re a bit hand-cuffed with substancially expanding trout fishing. Personally, what I will be taking home from the survey is the fact that I need to do a better job of promote cutthroat trout angling opportunities, especially in the Indian and James Peak Wilderness and streams that flow out of RMNP. In the coming year opportunities for black bass, walleye and wiper will expand simply because more ponds will open in the next 2-3 years. Stay positive Colorado and go fish.
Ben Swigle (Swigs), CO   5/17/2013 9:06:24 AM
Finally a note on frequent vs. infrequent. All states recieve a small return on an excise tax on fishing equipment. This tax helps fund the Fishing is Fun grant program. So there is some revenue there. More importantly, frequent angler support Colorado's economy as a whole. Think about a trip to North Park stopping at the gas station, restaurant, grocery store, tackle shop, hotel, bowling alley, angler may not have contributed directly to CPW budget bet the entire Walden community has indirectly benefitted., CO   5/17/2013 9:20:59 AM
My target species...ANYTHING BUT THE CRAPPPY EASTERN PLAINS SLIMERS!!! Big waste of time and effort for catfood you could buy at the store..And many others feel that way.
Coyute, CO   5/17/2013 9:25:04 AM
Thanks again for the info. :)
Vanish, CO   5/20/2013 11:39:12 AM
FXA0 - great analysis. Ben - "we must manage species that conform to the available habitat" - This makes total sense to me! I too feel like the stocking of trout is a self-fulfilling prophecy: Casual anglers go out and fish for what is easily available, and because CPW stocks so many easy to catch stockers, that is what they catch, and therefore that is what they identify themselves as pursuing. Casual anglers don't really care what they're catching, they just want steady action, and the stocker trout give them that. It doesn't mean we need more of that. Serious non-resident anglers coming to Colorado specifically to fish (as opposed to catch a few fish while on vacation) are NOT coming to catch those 12" stocker trout. They're coming to fish for those ridiculous tailwater trout (Taylor, Frying Pan), the north/south park giants or the remote rivers/streams/lakes for high country cutthroats and brookies. PS: We really need a better blog commenting system so I can use paragraphs and bold!
shiverfix, CO   5/20/2013 12:37:49 PM
Was out this weekend, and hit Smith, Main, and a couple little ponds. Smith had less than 6 people fishing it, the ponds had 2 or less, and Main, which is stocked with rainbows, was elbow to elbow. Even if it is a chicken/egg argument, what would you prefer? Stop stocking the rainbows, the people who line the shores for them will start catching something else. Now all of a sudden you will be seeing buckets of 8" to 10" bass being taken out of the front range ponds. I'm not sure what people complaining about the trout would prefer. Start stocking 8" walleye into every mud puddle on the front range and have everyone fishing for stocker walleye? Actually, maybe there is something to that....
redleader, CO   5/20/2013 8:09:17 PM
So per the surveys lake trout were above kokanee desirables will someone please relay this info to the dpw. lol