The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a recreational rainbow trout fishery

Bunt, C. and B. Jacobson. 2021. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on a recreational rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) fishery. Journal of Great Lakes Research. In Review.


After initial complete lock-downs caused recreational angling restrictions due to COVID-19, angler exploitation rates of rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Saugeen River, Ontario, a tributary to Lake Huron, increased while fishery support activities remained impeded. There was a seven-fold increase in overall exploitation rate and a four-fold increase in harvest rate in fall 2020 compared to pre-pandemic seasons. Increased angling pressure occurred simultaneously with reduced fishway functionality and interrupted hatchery operations. As a result return run sizes in the future may be significantly diminished and fisheries managers may need to take action to mitigate this unforeseen consequence of the pandemic, the full extent of which is likely not to be fully realized for several years.

rainbow trout anglers fall
anglers downstream denny's dam
Angling pressure downstream of Denny's Dam at noon when fish were tagged October 28 2019 pre-pandemic (left) and November 7 2020 during the pandemic (right). Seven anglers are pictured within the 50m stretch in 2019 while thirty-eight anglers were present in 2020.