“The Fresh Fish of Bellaire”

Just over one month after the Coldwater Resources Steering Committee (CRSC) meeting, I made another scenic journey to Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. The destination for 12/1/15: Bellaire, home of Shanty Creek Resorts, where the 2015 Michigan DNR (MDNR) Fisheries Division Meeting took place. As soon as I walked beneath the enormous wooden entryway and sensed the unmistakable fragrance of the northwoods, I knew I was in for an enjoyable morning. I entered a cabin-like hallway replete with photographs and paintings of hunting expeditions of yesteryear. I admired the meticulous detail and impeccable accuracy of deer, ducks, and grouse, those animals of endless fascination. In a wildlife dreamland, I slowly made my way to the meeting registration table. To my surprise, there were nametags featuring clear, crisp images of common Michigan recreational fishes and bags with an embossed Michigan DNR Fisheries Division logo! Quite a professional event, I said to myself, thinking of my many undergraduate meetings with the Minnesota DNR (first as a volunteer, then as an employee) during my days at the University of Minnesota. The stage was set for a memorable meeting.

The meeting featured sessions for various Committees of the MDNR, including the Trout Committee, where I presented full results from the 2015 Inland Trout Angler Survey. Whereas my talk at the CRSC focused on differences between angling group members and non-members in Michigan streams, in this presentation (PDF:CRSC_TroutCommtalk) I characterized the factors that drive typical, “overall” anglers to fish streams and inland lakes for brook trout, brown trout, rainbow trout, lake trout, and splake. I discussed anglers’ responses to a wide range of questions, including those related to angling experience, fishing trip planning, stream and lake selection factors, harvest and tackle use patterns, and overall satisfaction with trout management in Michigan. I was grateful to hear from managers that I provided the details they sought, information that will help us understand the values, attitudes, and behaviors of public stakeholders as we develop a statewide management plan for inland trout. Another incredible Fenske Fellowship experience!

It has been highly rewarding to see that my research is relevant for fisheries managers. As I reflect on my Fenske Fellowship experiences thus far, four lessons come to mind:

  1. Know your audience
    • A professional presentation is valuable in proportion to how effectively a speaker communicates with his/her audience. In transitioning from my first to second presentation, I made a more conscious effort to consider my audience (i.e., salmonid managers) and the specific information they desired. I am certain this improved the quality of my second talk.
  2. Speak with passion, confidence, and creativity
    • In my experience, professional talks represent outstanding opportunities to channel personal enthusiasm toward effective scientific communication. Speak with your heart, and good things will happen!
  3. Address questions with honesty and an open mind
    • At the Trout Committee meeting I received a thought-provoking question about the degree to which my sample population (N = 4,161) accurately represented Michigan trout anglers. Knowing that survey respondents were typically male, age 50-65, and members of angling groups (and invariably provided their emails after purchasing licenses), I responded to this question to the effect that my sample population was not fully representative. To expect a completely representative population is unrealistic, but it is important to acknowledge the inherent biases in a survey and transparently communicate these to audiences at professional meetings.
  4. Learn and have fun!
    • The MDNR fisheries community is a wonderful group of passionate scientists, managers, and biologists who care deeply about the health of aquatic resources within and outside Michigan. Collectively (and in many cases individually), these fisheries professionals are a walking encyclopedia of information. For a Ph.D. student like myself, networking with the MDNR fisheries community is an incredible extracurricular experience. I’ve learned facts about fisheries research and management that no amount of classroom instruction could provide. And I’ve had lots of fun!
      • In a festive, holiday-themed room, members of the Michigan DNR Trout Committee discuss results of the 2015 Inland Trout Angler Survey after my presentation.

        Trout Committee

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