Educator: There is value in sportfishing

Sean HubbardOSU Ag Communications

STILLWATER — Crops and vegetation have enjoyed the increased rainfall this year. So have municipalities, wildlife, rivers, lakes, fish and anglers.

According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report on outdoor recreation in 2014, Oklahomans spend more total days fishing than wildlife watching and hunting combined. Anglers spend more than $800 million annually on fishing-related purchases, generating $77 million in state and local tax revenue and supporting more than 11,000 jobs.

“One of the most popular forms of outdoor recreation in Oklahoma is sportfishing,” said Tracy Boyer, associate professor in Oklahoma State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics. “To evaluate the economic benefits of recreational fishing at Oklahoma lakes, we recently conducted an economic demand analysis of sportfishing trips taken by state residents.”

Boyer and her team were looking into understanding the recreational value of Oklahoma’s lakes by using data from Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation surveys asking about fishing participation in the past year, species preferences, gear preferences and the destination of the most recent fishing trip.

“We found from the surveys that more than two-thirds of all sportfishing trips in Oklahoma are to public reservoirs, while another 10 percent are to rivers,” said Boyer. “On average, an angler fishes 31 days in a year and spends about an average of $50 per trip.”

While the most popular lakes in the state for sportfishing are Eufaula, Texoma, Fort Gibson and Grand Lake, even a smaller lake may attract 10,000 visits per year and generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending by anglers. The study found the average trip had an economic value of about $60.

Whether spending is associated with a trip or not, though, it still provides value to the angler.

“Changing water conditions at Oklahoma lakes can have an especially large effect on anglers and the economy,” she said. “The water quality (clarity and algae blooms) greatly impacts anglers’ decisions to go on fishing trips. Protecting lakes and rivers can be costly, but it can directly benefit users, including recreational anglers, and have direct and indirect benefits for local economies.”