Research Report: Assessing the Economic Impact and Significance of Recreational Angling on Lake Erie Waters

anglers on lake erie


The state of Pennsylvania manages the smallest portion of Lake Erie, encompassing 76.6 miles of coastline. This Pennsylvania section of Lake Erie is home to a multitude of pristine public parks and recreation facilities. Nearly every one of these facilities serves the primary purpose of providing access to Lake Erie itself. This abundant access includes numerous angling related facilities such as boat launches, fishing piers, shorelines, and a large assortment of private and public concessions. The combination of highly sought-after ecological attributes in addition to an abundance of public access makes the Pennsylvania section of Lake Erie extremely favorable among a breadth of local, regional, and international anglers.

Within the overall Lake Erie watershed, the well-established recreational angling industry is a cornerstone of the economy and lifeblood for many residents. Lake Erie is the shallowest and southernmost of the five Great Lakes and is the fourth largest Great Lake in terms of surface area and the smallest Great Lake in terms of water volume. Due to Lake Erie’s southernmost position, it is the warmest and most biologically productive of all of the Great Lakes in terms of angler yield. These ecological attributes allow Lake Erie (as well as Lake Michigan) to possess 114 native species of fish, the largest diversity of species within all of the Great Lakes. This highly diverse mixture of cold and warm water fish species attracts anglers from around the world to Lake Erie’s unique and prolific waterways.

With such a valuable water resource, natural resource managers and stakeholders alike within the Lake Erie basin recognize the importance of providing credible economic data to policy makers in order to sustain this abundant angling resource for generations to come. However, there is little existing information on the economic impact and significance of the recreational angling industry within the Pennsylvania section of Lake Erie. Pennsylvania Sea Grant commissioned The Pennsylvania State University to collect data and provide answers to these questions. This study was conducted from July 2016 to July 2017 and was funded through the generous contributions of Pennsylvania Sea Grant.

The overarching goal of the study was to assess the economic impact and significance of the recreational angling industry within the 76.6 mile Pennsylvania section of Lake Erie. This study assessed all forms of recreational angling within the Pennsylvania section of Lake Erie including shore angling, boat angling, and special event angling such as angler tournaments. For a guiding framework, this study utilized an exploratory mixed methodology with three connected phases: Phase I) mail back and online surveys of anglers, Phase II) on-site surveys of anglers, and Phase III) qualitative interviews with angler stakeholders.

This report offers a snapshot of recreational anglers within the Pennsylvania section of Lake Erie. It provides basic data concerning anglers’ socio-demographic characteristics, trip visitation patterns, experience preferences, level of satisfaction, levels of experience, resource attachment, and economic expenditures. In total, this study provides a baseline from which to confirm on-going management and/or to suggest new directions for resource and fisheries managers. Study results suggest that the economic contributions of the recreational angling industry within the 76.6 mile Pennsylvania section of Lake Erie are considerable. Collectively, the information in this report should help give managers and stakeholders further insights that will aid in the sustained health and quality of Lake Erie (Content summarized from report).

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