Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Natural Resource Management

First Advisor

Larry M. Gigliotti


Economics, Fisheries, Leisure, Social Value, Survey Research, Water Resources


The valuation of small fishing lakes is a vital component in understanding the importance of fishing and of recreational resources, in general. Knowing the values associated with such lakes is essential when prioritizing management activities. The overall value of a lake as a resource for human benefit is estimated as the summation of both instrumental and non-instrumental values. Instrumental values consist of economic and utilitarian values, as well as the values that a lake provides from ecosystem services. Non-instrumental values consider what the lake is worth as a good of its own, such as aesthetic, moral, and spiritual values gained by people because of the lake’s existence. In South Dakota, limited information of the economic and social values associated with small fishing and recreational lakes across the state has been collected. Many economic and social value studies have taken place on relatively larger lakes and reservoirs in the state; however, there is an abundance of small lakes that have yet to receive such research attention. With over 400 small lakes under state management, over time, many of these lakes will require costly renovation projects, such as dam repair, dredging, maintenance and replacement of docks and boat ramps, creation of fishing access, and general fisheries population management. Angler usage and economic information of the contributions of fishing and other water-related recreation at particular lakes of interest can help prioritize these expensive renovation projects. Moreover, the non-market values that local residents place on these lakes can be just as valuable to decision-making processes as the associated economic information. When combined, the information gathered from these lakes will contribute to better economic and social value estimates of similar lakes across South Dakota, and even across the United States. The economic evaluation of small recreational lakes also provides more precise measurements of recreational value when conjoined with already existing valuation data from relatively larger and higher use lakes. While currently published economic information has been useful in influencing management and policy decisions, the process in which data have been collected has not provided an accurate representation of the economic activity resulting from small fisheries within a region. Several other studies in South Dakota have targeted larger, more impactful fisheries resources for economic analyses; however, the economic value of the fishing industry becomes even more substantial with the addition of over 400 small lakes across the state. With few nearby opportunities for anglers to fish at larger lakes and reservoirs, the importance of quality fishing opportunities at nearby small fisheries could be sizeable, meaning that the collective economic value of these fisheries may be quite considerable. Recognizing the lack of information on this topic, I initiated this study to better understand the share that small fisheries have in the overall economic activity related to the fishing industry in South Dakota. For my first goal, the economic activity of seven small, South Dakota fishing lakes was estimated by using the expenditures during angling trips to these individual lakes in 2016. In particular, I wanted to: (1) estimate angler use, (2) estimate the extent of the total economic activity (TEA) associated with small fisheries, and (3) provide economic and use information that may be important to managers in determining future management priorities. The economic activity associated with angling visits to seven small fisheries in South Dakota was estimated using IMPLAN software. The average economic activity associated with fishing individual lakes in 2016 was $35,369/lake, supporting an average of 0.48 jobs and creating $5,572 in tax revenue. I observed that lakes with the highest proportion of ice fishing pressure also had the greatest associated economic activity, even though several of these had the lowest overall fishing pressure throughout the year. In addition to economic activity, zone of influence for each lake was estimated and compared with the proximity to urban centers. The inclusion of economic information from small fisheries may play an important role in influencing key strategic planning efforts by management agencies and in estimating the overall economic importance of angling on broader scales. Further, this study provides evidence of the importance of community events, such as fishing tournaments, in increasing the TEA of a small fishery and that these small fishing lakes are important assets to local communities. This study also indicated that special management strategies, such as the stocking of a catchable-size popular sportfish, can generate excitement around a fishery that may increase its use and economic activity. While collecting the monetary value on a resource seems to be the most popular method for determining how important a resource is to a region, perhaps the value of inland fisheries transcends economic statistics. Inland fisheries can also serve a crucial non-monetary role in contributing to the overall well-being of individuals by providing opportunities to form connections between humans and nature. Freshwater fisheries provide a wide array of ecosystem services that are important to individuals, society, and the environment, which include: food security, economic security, empowerment, cultural services, recreational services, human health and well-being, knowledge transfer and capacity building, ecosystem function and biodiversity, aquatic “canaries,” and “green” food opportunities. The ability to understand these non-market values, and the extent to which they contribute to the overall value provided by a small lake is a critical component in any decision-making process pertaining to management activities and priorities, as well as when deciding additional stakeholders that are necessary to include in these processes. For my second goal, I determined the importance of small fishing lakes to the overall quality of life of residents living in nearby communities in South Dakota. My objectives were to (1) measure the recreational activities and other uses provided to residents by lakes near their local communities, (2) measure the attitudes and values of residents towards the lakes that are near their communities, and (3) determine the uses, respondent characteristics, and attitudes towards these lakes that are best at predicting the importance of the lakes to local residents’ overall quality of life living in their communities. I used multiple linear regression analysis to identify that the most important predictors to lakes’ importance to local residents’ quality of life were: “lake is an important community resource,” “lake is a place I enjoy visiting,” “the number of different activities participated in at lake,” and “the lake is important to local businesses.” These 4 predictors were positively related to the contribution of lakes to residents’ quality of life. My findings provide empirical evidence for the desire to incorporate community participation and economic growth objectives into management plans for local lake resources. Realizing the diversity of recreation and leisure opportunities that lakes and adjacent lands can provide may be a simple, but critical, step in increasing economic opportunity for local regions and for providing a place for communities to hold events and ceremonies. Managers of these resources may find that agency-community collaboration, and careful co-management, can provide positive outcomes in the form of increased satisfaction among users and local communities, as well as increased overall use of the resources. Not only do these lakes contribute to economic value through angling opportunities, they also contribute in the form of non-market social values, such as increased community involvement, expanded recreational opportunities, and a greater overall quality of life. Managers of small recreational lakes must select appropriate survey methodologies in order to collect precise, accurate, and unbiased information from their constituents regarding the lakes’ economic and social valuations. Traditional survey approaches for gathering information from stakeholders have relied on on-site, mail, or telephone surveys. However, the ability to administer surveys quickly and with relatively low cost using the internet has become a popular method among managers and researchers. The rapid onset of internet surveys as a method for collecting angler information has provided limited time to assess the quality of the data being produced. For my third goal, I compared the quality of data collected using on-site, mail, and internet survey data from the 2016 fishing year. More specifically, my objective was to determine the ability of internet surveys to estimate fishing pressure at small South Dakota lakes (evaluated with data estimated using on-site surveys of fishing pressure). A secondary objective was to compare three metrics (age, gender ratios, and satisfaction of anglers’ fishing experiences) across survey methods to demonstrate how these metrics can vary across survey methods and sampling frames. Results indicate that angling pressure estimated from internet surveys were found to be 2.2 times greater than estimates from on-site surveys across all seven lakes; however, the proportion of angler days relative to the other lakes within the study were not significantly different between on-site and internet survey methods (p = 0.91). Internet surveys may have been subjected to recall error and nonresponse bias, which would likely cause a large multiplier effect during extrapolation. I also found that angler satisfaction on a scale from -3 to 3 was significantly different among on-site surveys (1.46 ± 0.07) and internet surveys (-0.04 ± 0.08). This is likely due to the interpretation of two different metrics based on the recency of the fishing experience that the anglers are being asked to rate. The mean age of internet survey respondents was significantly different (p < 0.001) than the age of mail survey respondents (49.6 ± 0.2 and 55.6 ± 0.7, respectively). Internet respondents may have been younger than mail survey respondents as a result of internet illiteracy, and lack of internet usage by older participants. The proportion of male respondents (vs. female) for each survey method were 94.1% (on-site), 65.0% (mail), and 88.3% (internet), which were all significantly different from each other (p < 0.001). The gender proportions also all differed from the distribution of anglers who had purchased a South Dakota fishing license in 2016 at 78.4% males and 21.6% females. Differences in gender ratios may have been caused by the topic of the survey being administered. As internet surveys become more prevalent, researchers and managers must use caution when considering these tools. Internet surveys are a relatively cheap and efficient method of collecting angler data when used properly. However, methods such as on-site and mail surveys should be considered in specific situations that evoke the biases and errors that are common with internet surveys, as described by this study.



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University


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