Natural Resources, School of


First Advisor

Christopher J. Chizinski

Date of this Version



Fedele, A.D. 2017. Influences of Catch-and-Release Angling on Fish Avoidance Behavior. Master's thesis. University of Nebraska.


A THESIS Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Science, Major: Natural Resource Sciences, Under the Supervision of Professor Christopher J. Chizinski. Lincoln, Nebraska: April 2017

Copyright (c) 2017 Alexis D. Fedele


Newly opened recreational fisheries provide the opportunity to explore direct social impacts on controlled (i.e., managed), naïve (i.e., previously unexploited by anglers) population of fish. Herein, we examine the direct influence of angling on wild fish populations, and aim to identify the behavioral outcomes in fish resulting from angling through laboratory experiments. Using two naïve fish populations from newly opened reservoirs in Nebraska, we assessed the short-term (30 d) response of fish populations to recreational angling. At one reservoir, we noted declining catch rates in catch-and-release regulated fish but not in harvested-regulated fish. We hypothesized that catch-and-released fish were given the opportunity to alter behavior, whereas harvested fish were presumably removed from the waterbody after capture with no opportunity to alter behavior. In addition, we evaluated behavioral types (i.e., bold and shy) in fish and whether they affect ability to learn to avoid subsequent recapture in the laboratory. Ration level and gear type, which consisted of a straightened hook with a worm (no hooking potential), a hook with a worm, and a lure with a worm, were varied across treatments to assess the role of hunger and visual cues on a fish’s propensity to be caught. We observed that both shy and bold individuals had a decreased probability of capture over the seven-day experiment. Bolder individuals exhibited a greater probability of capture across gear types compared to shyer individuals. Ration level appeared to have little influence on the probability of capture. Fish exposed to the control gear showed little change in the probability of capture. Fish exposed to lures exhibited lower probability of capture than the hook and control gears across behavioral types. The learned avoidance of capture has strong implications for fishing-induced evolution, efficacy of management regulations and satisfaction of anglers.

Advisor: Christopher J. Chizinski