Sharing your fish tales? There’s a (new U of M) app for that

May 19, 2015

Tales about “the one that got away” will provide valuable data for managing fisheries resources, thanks to a new initiative by the University of Minnesota and the app company iFish.

iFish Forever is an iFish MN add-on that allows anglers to anonymously share their catch in support of cutting edge research and responsible management. Users simply take their phones fishing and hit the “Caught One!” button every time they catch a fish. The app then asks them to enter the species, length, and whether they kept the fish or threw it back.  Users’ phones will automatically capture the date and time of each catch. iFish MN can be downloaded for free for both Android and Apple smart phones.

“Responsible fisheries management requires accurate information,” says Paul Venturelli, assistant professor in the U’s department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology.

For over a century, that information has come from interviews with anglers– known as creel surveys--conducted on the water or at an access point. Because of the staffing costs, creel surveys are expensive to conduct, which has limited the amount of data available to researchers and managers.

 “As a result, we know surprisingly little about our fisheries resources beyond the most popular lakes,” Venturelli says.  “iFish Forever addresses these limitations by engaging anglers as part of the solution. By putting the creel survey in the palm of your hand, we’re saving tax dollars and providing creel data in real time and anywhere that people are fishing.”

Anglers benefit in the short term because the app shows them where, when, and how to fish, lets them track their own success, and participate in forums. Individual anglers cannot be identified by the data that their phones submit, and their data will never be made public or used to enforce fishing laws.

“Minnesota anglers have been asking the DNR for something like this,” Venturelli says. “Who better than the anglers themselves to help collect the quality data that we need to manage our fisheries? That’s why we’ve created an app that’s anonymous and fun to use. And we’re giving it away so that, together, we can generate unique knowledge that will ensure that our fisheries are healthy far into the future.”

The project will provide insight into how information collected in the application can supplement conventional data collection efforts such as surveys, angler diaries and interviews, said Melissa Treml, fisheries research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“The number and frequency of traditional methods of gathering data on where, when and how anglers catch fish have declined due to budget constraints,” she said. “Mobile applications such as this have the potential to collect a wealth of information more often, more efficiently and at a lower cost.”

The DNR provided $33,000 for the project from its fisheries research budget for the project. It will receive a report in 2016 that compares data collected via the application to conventional angler survey methods and identifies strengths and weakness of the electronic data collection system.

“Based on past analyses of angler diaries and catch logs to in-person angler interviews, we suspect electronic collection will be as valuable and accurate as our traditional methods,” Treml said. “This project will help determine if that assumption is correct.”

For more information about IFF visit http://www.ifishforever.com/

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