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What makes anglers happy?

image: walleye.

Credit: David Kinney/CC- BY-2.0 DEED (edited), creative

Three things can make a fisher’s day.

Research Need

Fishery managers strive to maintain healthy fish populations, as well as healthy recreational and commercial fishing industries. 

Managing the recreational sector requires an understanding of how anglers feel about their fishing opportunities. Satisfied anglers make individual choices that benefit the fishery, such as complying with regulations. 

Unfortunately, angler satisfaction is hard to measure, because most study methods are hampered by limited time, insufficient funding, and response bias. Fishery managers need a practical way to measure angler sentiment so that they can find ways to satisfy anglers more often.

What did they study?

A research team focused on walleye anglers in nine states to test out a new approach to understanding these fishers’ levels of satisfaction. They identified angling-oriented online forums with active users in Arkansas, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, and searched for posts with key words related to fisheries management. 

The researchers gave each post a sentiment score based on seven variables: angler density (the number of fishers within a location), proportion of jobs, license cost, season length, agency transparency, bag limit, and special regulations. The team then averaged scores across all users in each state to estimate satisfaction at the state scale.

What did they find?

Angler density, bag limit, and season length proved to be the greatest influences on angler satisfaction. 

The positive relationship between angler density and sentiment surprised researchers. They had theorized that crowded waterways would make for unhappy anglers. The researchers’ explanation was that an area’s unique fishing culture and the perception of “better fishing” with more crowds resulted in more satisfaction. 

Ultimately, a higher angler density does reflect more social opportunities, increased bag limits create greater potential for catch success, and a longer season provides more chances for fishing trips. All three factors amount to more chances for enjoyment.

Anything else?

Anglers in Illinois had the highest overall sentiment, while those in North Dakota had the lowest. When adjusted for the overall happiness of the general population in each state, North Dakota anglers still had the lowest sentiment, but Arkansas anglers had the highest sentiment. 

The team acknowledged that more often anglers post in online forums when they have extreme emotions after having either a great day or a terrible day of fishing.

So what?

Study results demonstrate how online forums can provide insight into the satisfaction of anglers. This approach provides ample opportunities to learn more about topics that can inform fisheries management.


Vacura, K.,  Camp, E., &  Venturelli, P. (2023).  What makes anglers happy: A sentiment analysis of Walleye angler forums in the United States. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society,  152,  749–1.


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