Fisheries Management: The Importance of Selective Harvest

October 22nd, 2013

Written by Industry Expert David Beasley, Lead Fisheries Biologist

Selective Harvest Fisheries management strategy

Fishermen and fisherwomen alike, almost always prefer to catch specific types and sizes of fish each time they go fishing. Few people are lucky enough to have a waterbody that serves as their “ideal” fishing experience. Those who have the good fortune to own a single waterbody with great fishing often do not realize that the fishery will not stay that way forever.

Many variables lead to why a fishery changes over time, but usually it is a change in either the habitat or the predator-to-prey ratio. Once a fishery no longer meets your goals, it can be very difficult to change it back. Man-made lakes and ponds often times do not naturally maintain a balanced predator-to-prey ratio, so without the proper fisheries management strategy, it is highly unlikely that even a great fishery will stay the same over the years.

Many anglers still practice Catch and Release, which is the term for returning all caught fish back into the water. Catch and Release tactics may be counterproductive and as a result, may prevent you from reaching your long-term goals. When managing private lakes and ponds for fishing, it is important to adopt a Selective Harvest management strategy. Strategically removing certain fish species and sizes, while releasing others, is one of the most important steps to improving your fishery.

Healthy bulegill Aaron 05.05.13Prior to determining creel limits and adopting a long-term management strategy, it is important to determine the goals for the fishery. A few examples of goals are to: catch big bass, catch big bluegill, or offer good fishing for kids. Once goals are determined, it is important to assess the current condition of the fishery. This can be done by having a fisheries biologist look through angling records provided by the fisherman or by performing an electrofishing survey. Once the goals are outlined and the current state of the fishery is determined, Selective Harvest rules can be implemented.

So next time you catch one of those one pound bass that seem to be overpopulated, take a second to think about the impact that releasing it may have on the fishery. Whether your fishery is doing great or is in very poor shape, it is important that you adopt a Selective Harvest management program. Poor fisheries can always improve, but great fisheries will not stay great forever, if managed poorly.

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David Beasley is a Lead Fisheries Biologist with SOLitude Lake Management. Since 1998, SOLitude Lake Management has been committed to providing full service lake and pond management services that improve water quality, preserve natural resources, and reduce our environmental footprint. Services are available throughout the Eastern United States. Fisheries management consulting and aquatic products are available nationwide. Learn more about SOLitude Lake Management and purchase products at

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