Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Wisconsin Fishery
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Wisconsin Fishery Project

Managing bluegill fisheries as a social-ecological system under a changing climate

March 2021 - August 2025


Participating Agencies

  • Climate Adaptation Science Center

Recreational fisheries management must balance the influences of ecological factors (e.g., environmental variation), social factors (e.g., angler behavior), and their interactions (e.g., angler responses to natural variation in fish populations) when developing strategies to produce and maintain resilient and productive fisheries. Climate change further challenges this paradigm by rearranging the mosaic of fishing opportunities on the landscape with unpredictable implications for anglers and fish populations. Considering these complex dynamics as a paired social-ecological system (SES) can help predict fisheries responses to ecosystem change and develop management strategies to meet stakeholder objectives. Bluegill are one of the most important species in North America in terms of providing accessible, harvest-oriented recreational fisheries. Significant knowledge gaps exist in our understanding of ecological drivers of bluegill population dynamics, how bluegill fisheries may respond to climate change, and how anglers will respond to changes in bluegill populations and their management. Filling these gaps will promote the development of management strategies to prevent problems like stunting (i.e., high abundances of small fish) or growth overfishing. We propose to develop an SES model to inform the management of bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus) across the Midwest US in the face of climate change. We will leverage extensive datasets on bluegill growth across the Midwest to develop statistical and process-based models to determine important factors structuring bluegill populations and predict their responses to climate change impacts. Angler behavior will be quantified using creel survey data and in-person and email discrete choice experiments to evaluate angler heterogeneity in responses to changes in bluegill fisheries and local fishing opportunities. Finally, an SES model will be developed and parameterized for Midwest bluegill fisheries using information on bluegill population dynamics and angler behavior acquired during the first two stages of this project. The SES model will be used to predict the effects of climate change on bluegill fishery outcomes and identify management strategies that best provide robust bluegill populations, satisfied anglers, and diverse angling opportunities. These results will elucidate currently unknown dynamics in bluegill fisheries and allow managers to develop best management practices for bluegill fisheries facing the uncertain impacts of climate change.

Presentations Presentation Date
Stankowski, D. S., D. A. Isermann, D. J. Dembkowski, Z. S. Feiner, and O. P. Jensen. January 2022. Bluegill growth and size structure in the midwestern USA: Predictive models and benchmarks for fisheries management. 82nd Annual Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference. Des Moines, Iowa. February 2022