On YouTube: What Do Lake Ontario’s “Resident Anglers” Want?
Great Lakes Sustainable Recreational and Commercial Fisheries - News

By Chris Gonzales, Freelance Science Writer, New York Sea Grant

Syracuse, NY, May 8, 2018 - Anglers who live close to Lake Ontario—a prime fishing destination in upstate New York and Canada—drop their lines in the region’s waters more often than just about anyone else. In fact, since these sportsmen and women are the most stable, reliable group of participants in the region’s fishing scene, people who study the industry gives them a name: resident anglers.

While out-of-state angler activity has generally fallen over the past 20 years, resident anglers remain steady as weights on a line. It is unknown whether these trends are broader, but we do have evidence for New York State. The largest subgroup of these anglers—37 percent—are those who report no preference for a particular species of fish.

Whereas others in the sport set their sights on particular fish, such as largemouth or smallmouth bass, walleye, or panfish, the expression tied to this group is “I catch whatever’s biting!”

 “I noticed that a large percentage of anglers residing in the Lake Ontario region were no-preference anglers, meaning that they don’t have a specific fish species that they try to catch,” said Diane Kuehn, an environmental scientist at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. “I thought it was important to find out what motivates these no-preference anglers to fish in order to provide information to coastal businesses for marketing and promotion purposes.”

A NYSG-funded survey of 7,000 property owners in the seven counties bordering Lake Ontario in New York State was conducted to examine the relationships among motivations, constraints, facilitators, demographic and experiential characteristics, and fishing participation for resident anglers who did not have a preference for catching a specific fish species (i.e., ‘no-preference’ resident anglers). Understanding the relationships among these elements is important for fisheries promoters and business owners seeking to attract this large angler market. A total of 1,303 questionnaires were returned, 681 of which were completed by anglers; 210 of these anglers self-identified as “no-preference” anglers. Credit: Jesse Lepak/NYSG.

In a study funded by New York Sea Grant, Kuehn and her team investigated what motivates and constrains the “no-preference” angler. Their findings are detailed in June 2017’s Fisheries Research.

When you look at the body of research about the preferences of anglers, some have studied motivating factors such as why people fish—to spend time with family and friends, say—or to build skills and find challenge. In contrast, constraints limit peoples’ participation in leisure activities. Examples of constraints are the inability to access fishing locations, lack of time, or lack of support from family or friends. Whatever reasons people have for fishing, how much fishing they actually do is dictated by various factors. Most of these factors can be either facilitating or constraining—e.g., one can have lots or little free time for leisure.

“The fishing participation of no-preference anglers residing in the Lake Ontario region seems to be positively and directly influenced by the responding anglers’ interest in passing on fishing-related skills and knowledge to children, other family members, and friends, as well as by their dedication to the sport and perceptions of the Lake Ontario environment,” said Kuehn. “In other words, the more positively they perceive the environment, the more they fish.”

Kuehn and her team encourage fisheries promoters and business owners to focus on “facilitators,” or those factors that can build significant relationships, and get people out fishing.

The investigators found that some factors positively influenced participation of the no-preference resident angler: Internal motivation (nurture), intrapersonal facilitator (level of commitment), intrapersonal constraint (respondents’ perception of the environment). In other words, Kuehn writes in the journal article, “Respondents were more likely to fish if they were engaged in teaching others how to fish, were dedicated to the sport, and had a favorable view of the Lake Ontario environment.”

“Their participation seems to be negatively influenced by the distance from their homes to a fishing location,” Kuehn said. “The further no-preference respondents live from fishing locations, the lower their fishing participation. The same could be said for the economic costs associated with fishing: travel costs, license fees, and equipment, bait, and tackle costs. Presumably, the higher the cost the less likely someone would fish—true for all anglers, not just resident ones.”

Although the “no-preference” anglers are fewer in number than species-specific anglers, they are the largest group of resident anglers, and are seen as important to the sportfishing industry. Negative perceptions of the Lake Ontario fishery do influence this group’s fishing participation. Identifying the “facilitating” factors such as internal motivations, commitment, and environmental perceptions can help fisheries managers and business owners ensure people are happily enjoying the fishing opportunities of Lake Ontario.

“The take-home message is that when marketing to this group,” said Kuehn, “coastal businesses should consider why these anglers are fishing: mainly to share their love of fishing with others, creating close-to-home fishing experiences that focus on family and friends.”


Kuehn, D. (2017). “'I catch whatever’s biting!': Motivations, constraints, and facilitators of no preference anglers residing along New York’s Lake Ontario Coast." Fisheries Research: 188–196.

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New York Sea Grant (NYSG), a cooperative program of Cornell University and the State University of New York (SUNY), is one of 33 university-based programs under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program.

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