Using Limited Data to Identify Optimal Bag and Size Limits to Prevent Overfishing

C. M. Moreau, B. G. Matthias

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Bag and size limits are commonly used in recreational fisheries management, but these regulations are often treated as separate management tools. This effectively overlooks how bag and size limits can be simultaneously used to achieve multiple management outcomes (e.g., reduce exploitation, prevent overfishing, maximize angler acceptance, etc.). Our objectives were to combine data-limited stock assessment methods with an angler catch simulation and a yield-per-recruit model to assess the effectiveness of bag and size limits to decrease exploitation rates and improve the spawning potential ratio (SPR). We then applied these methods to the Kipawa Lake Walleye Sander vitreus fishery that has experienced overfishing and poor fishing quality. Using data-limited assessment methods, the exploitation rate was estimated at 0.45 (95% CI = 0.32–0.59) and the population was overfished (mean SPR = 0.06; 95% CI = 0.02–0.13). Bag limits significantly reduced total harvest when extremely restrictive (i.e., reduced to one fish per angler from the current limit of six), but changes in bag limits alone were not sufficient to prevent overharvest because SPR remained below 0.35. Size limits could be used to prevent overharvest with narrow harvest slots (up to a 14-cm slot range with a minimum harvestable size greater than 32 cm) or large minimum size limits (>52 cm) at the current bag limit of six. When bag limits were reduced to one or two fish per day, harvest windows could be 3–13 cm larger and minimum length limits could be 3–12 cm lower to prevent overharvest. This analysis outlines a relatively simple and effective method that can be applied using data commonly collected in annual agency surveys to predict which regulatory combinations can be used to prevent overharvest, reduce exploitation rates, and maximize angler satisfaction and acceptance of regulations. Finally, the data and model code are included in the Supplement and can be easily applied to other data limited fisheries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)747-758
Number of pages12
JournalNorth American Journal of Fisheries Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Fisheries Society


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