According to a 2001 federal survey, more than $210 million is spent each year on fishing-related activities in Mississippi by some 586,000 anglers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report also found that nearly 12 percent of this cash stream comes from non-state residents crossing the borders to reach Mississippi's 14,000 miles of streams, 345,000 acres of ponds and 295,000 acres of larger lakes and reservoirs.
Non-resident fishing expenditures can have a substantial impact on rural economies by bringing in "new" money which helps create jobs and support local businesses.
To localize the economic impact of recreational boat fishing, researchers at Mississippi State University's Forest and Wildlife Research Center recently began a social and economic study of the Sardis Upper Lake Reservoir, one of the region's premier crappie locales.
The center's Human Dimensions and Conservation Law Enforcement Laboratory will determine the economic impact of recreational fishing on Panola, Lafayette and Yalobusha counties, in particular, and the entire state of Mississippi, in general.
"The study is funded by the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks because of the increasing number of non-resident anglers fishing the reservoir," said Kevin Hunt, laboratory director and assistant professor in MSU's wildlife and fisheries department.
"Because of the exceptional quality of crappie fishing in the reservoir, non-residents regularly travel from many other Southern, and even Midwestern, states to fish there," he added.
However, while good for local economies, increased fishing can have drawbacks on fish populations, he said. To sustain a quality fishing environment, changes may be required in the lengths and bag limits of caught fish--and possibly even restrictions on fishing gear.
Hunt said scientists in the laboratory will gauge support for current and proposed regulations that affect perceptions of fishing quality and trip satisfaction and investigate how anglers feel about changes to the management regime.
"It will give anglers a voice in the future management of the reservoir," Hunt added.
To complete the angler survey, technicians are being stationed at various reservoir boat ramps for a total of 120 days between now and February 2007. One member of each fishing party will be asked to participate in a follow-up mail survey.
"The information obtained from the study will help to increase the importance of recreational fishing in the minds of local and state decision makers," said co-investigator Steve Grado, an economist in the department of forestry.
For additional information on MSU's Sardis Reservoir survey, contact Hunt at (662) 325-0989 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Grado at 325-2792 or email@example.com.