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

Shamaskin, A.V., M.E. Colvin, L.E. Miranda. 2023. Evaluating regional length limits in freshwater fisheries. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.


Length limits are often used in recreational fisheries management to prevent overharvest and manipulate fish size distributions. These regulations are ideally customized to meet water-specific stock dynamics and fishery objectives. However, in districts with numerous discrete waters, fisheries are commonly managed with a universal regional regulation. Evaluating alternative regional length limits requires consideration of management objectives that may not be important at the single-system level, but that emerge as relevant at the regional scale, such as uniformity of regional harvest, diversity of average catch sizes, and opportunity to harvest. We developed a flexible tool for evaluating regional length limits. The tool joins the well-established Beverton-Holt yield-per-recruit model with elements of decision-support methods. The model quantifies regional management objectives as utility functions that are weighted and summed into a single value used to evaluate alternative length limits. The flexibility of the tool stems from its capacity to consider a mixture of stock parameters and associated uncertainty to evaluate multiple length limits, weighing an array of regional fishery objectives quantified by various performance metrics. This adjustability affords flexibility to consider a diversity of options that can stimulate innovation in setting regional length limits. We demonstrate the model by evaluating varying length limits on fishery objectives related to the management of hypothetical Yellow Perch populations and real Black Crappie populations.