Georgia Strait Creel Survey

Background Information

The Strait of Georgia creel survey study area comprises over 5,900 km2 (2,300 square miles) of water surface area and has in excess of 2,400 km (1,500 miles) of shoreline. From its southern end near Victoria, the area extends about 290 km (180 miles) north-west to the Campbell River area. At its greatest width this area is about 32 km (20 miles) wide. Two major population centers, Vancouver and Victoria, and many smaller centers such as Nanaimo and Campbell River are located within the study area. Over 500 boat launch ramps, marinas and public wharves as well as thousands of private boat launching facilities provide access to this area.

The recreational fishery is active throughout the year but over 85% of the effort occurs in the summer months of May to September. It has become a major tourist attraction and a dominant economic force in some communities during the summer.

The size of vessel, method of fishing and terminal tackle vary widely depending on location and time of year. Vessels range from 4 m (12') car-top boats to yachts more than 17 m (50') in length, although most boats would be in the 5 m to 8 m (16' to 24') range. Popular fishing methods include trolling, mooching, bucktailing and stripcasting.

The most sought after species in the Strait of Georgia recreational fishery are the coho (O. kisutch) and chinook (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) salmon, but in recent years significant fisheries directed at pink (O. gorbuscha) and sockeye (O. nerka) salmon have developed in certain areas.

Over the past 3 decades the recreational fishery in this area has undergone dramatic changes. Prior to 1960, the numbers of chinook and coho taken by the commercial troll fleet was almost double that taken by sport fishermen. In recent years, however, the situation has reversed with the sport fishery taking more than triple the commercial harvest of chinook and coho. The recreational fishery is the primary harvester of chinook and coho in the Strait of Georgia. Effort in the recreational fishery has increased from about 200,000 boat trips in 1960 to about 600,000 boat trips in recent years. Although annual coho catches have varied widely, an increase from about 200,000 pieces in 1960 to over 600,000 pieces in 1990 was recorded. The extremely low 1991 coho catch of 157,000 was a departure from this trend. In contrast, the chinook catch climbed through the 1960's but then declined steadily from a peak in the mid 1970's of over 400,000 pieces to its present level of just over 100,000 pieces.

From 1956 to 1976, estimates of catch and effort in the sport fishery published by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) were based on subjective assessments completed by Fishery Officers and on small scale creel surveys. The general lack of statistical rigor and consistency associated with these methods of catch estimation as well as the rapid growth of the recreational fishery led to the initiation of the Strait of Georgia Creel Survey Pilot Program in 1980 (DPA 1982). The survey has been run continuously (with minor interruptions) since then. Although many details such as sampling locations and times are updated continuously to reflect changes in the fishery, the basic design of the survey remains similar to the pilot project conducted in 1980.

Creel survey data are used for a variety of management and reporting purposes. Catch and effort information is also used by local people (both inside and outside DFO) to monitor the fishery in their area. Creel survey information is also used to predict the effect of regulation changes and to measure the success of conservation actions imposed. The adipose mark information collected during the survey is supplied to the Mark Recovery Program (Kuhn et al 1988) and used in combination with other data for exploitation rate and stock distribution analyses.

Strait of Georgia Creel Survey Objectives

The specific objectives of the Strait of Georgia creel survey were:

  1. To estimate the sport angler effort and catch of chinook, coho, pink, sockeye and chum salmon, rockfish, lingcod and other finfish by month for Statistical Areas 13 through 19, 28 and 29; and to estimate the number of chinook and coho released by anglers.
  2. To estimate the mark rate for adipose clipped chinook and coho in the catch.
  3. To estimate the age composition and mean length-at-age for chinook, and the length frequency for chinook, coho and lingcod.
  4. To estimate the species composition of the rockfish catch.