A survey of the sport fishery was conducted in a 265-square-mile area of the lower Potomac Estuary during the summer and fall of 1959, 1960, and 1961. Fisherman interviews, postal card questionnaires, and aerial boat counts were used to determine angling pressure, rates of catch, estimated harvest, species importance, and economic value of the sport fishery.
Postal responses were increased from 33.5 to 66.3 percent, perhaps minimizing bias from non-response. No important differences were found in 1961 between initial and follow-up postal returns.
The 1961 estimate indicated that 101,000 angler trips produced approximately 1,200,000 fish weighing almost 642,000 pounds. Party size averaged 3.0 anglers who fished approximately 4.5 hours per trip and creeled 2.6 fish per man-hour.
Virtually no significant differences were found between rates of catch for incomplete and complete trip data in the only year tested—1961. Interview or postal surveys appear equally effective in providing rates of catch and each might be used solely in future surveys. Confidence limits for 1961 revealed narrow ranges for both incomplete and complete trip estimates of fishing pressure and harvest, indicating precise survey methods.
Trolling was the more productive fishing method for striped bass and bluefish. Still fishing yielded higher catches of spot, white perch, weakfish, yellow perch and other bottom species. Resident striped bass ranked first in importance to the sport fishery in 1960, primarily due to recruitment of the dominant year-class of 1958. Throughout the survey, fish of age group II dominated the striped bass catch, while striped bass six years and older made up less than six percent. The spot ranked first in the 1961 catch.
During the five-month survey in 1961, an estimated $594,000 was spent by Potomac Estuary anglers. The average angler spent $5.80 on each of his 29 mean yearly trips.