CLEWISTON, Fla. — If you fish a tournament on Lake Okeechobee between now and Sept. 30, 2020, you can make an important contribution to fisheries management, as well as help ensure a bright future for competitive bass fishing in Florida
You can do that by completing an online survey in a pilot economic study that likely will expand statewide following a test run on the Big O, which plays host to more bass tournaments (500 annually) than any other fishery in the Sunshine State.
"The information provided will be used to better understand the economic impacts of tournaments at both the local and statewide level, and to inform lake management actions," said the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in announcing the ambitious project.
Barron Moody, regional fisheries administrator added, "We've been interested in the economics of fishing generally and bass tournaments specifically for quite awhile. And now we've found a good group ready to push this forward."
That group includes "human dimension" specialists and economists within FWC's Center for Conservation Social Science Research and Ed Camp, an assistant professor in fisheries and aquatic sciences at the University of Florida.
An added incentive to quantify the economic value of tournaments is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is changing methodology for the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation that it conducts every five years. That will result in less economy-related information for the states, Moody said.
In encouraging angler participation in this study, B.A.S.S. National Conservation Director Gene Gilliland observed that there's a general lack of solid information on the value of tournaments. “As anglers we know that tournaments have a big economic impact, but we don’t have much hard data to back that up. That’s why surveys like this are so important. We need to be able to show local and state leaders that our sport is every bit as important to their economy as other users of those resources.”
Gilliland added, "It's also very important to have this information when we battle the anti-tournament and anti-bass forces," he said.
Additionally, information obtained from the surveys will help FWC demonstrate the value of tournaments to budgetary decision-makers at the county and municipal levels. "We're hoping that will help make them more willing to partner with us to open up a new boat ramp or improve and expand facilities," the FWC biologist said.
"This will help us understand patterns and determine where people are coming from, how long they're staying," he added. "It will help us evaluate management regulations."
For example, resource managers will have a much better idea of how a fishery that allows tournaments benefits local communities compared to one that is catch-and-release only, such as Stickmarsh.
Sample questions include the following:
- What boat ramp did you launch from for this tournament?
- How many nights did you stay near Lake Okeechobee (e.g., Glades, Okeechobee, Martin, Palm Beach or Hendry counties)?
- How many hours did you practice or prefish for this tournament?
- How many people traveled with you for this tournament?
If you're a tournament participant on Lake Okeechobee, you should receive a survey link from the director who requested a permit for the event. But if you do not, FWC encourages you to ask for it.
"FWC is requesting tournament directors forward the email and survey link to participating anglers before the tournament, and that anglers respond as quickly as possible following their tournament," the agency said.
"Responses will be kept confidential and will not be associated with any personal identifying information. After completing the survey, anglers will receive a product discount from Gambler Lures, which is providing an incentive for participating in the study."
Bass clubs helped FWC develop and clarify questions for the survey, Moody said, adding that "Freshwater anglers often don't participate (in studies) as much as we would like. But tournament anglers generally are enthusiastic."
He also emphasized FWC wants to include the "youth demographic" in this pilot project.
If you are a tournament director or tournament angler and have questions concerning this study, send an email to [email protected].