Lets first begin with the catch chart itself. To me it is very important to keep record of as much data as possible on the chart. First you need the date. The date becomes important when comparing seasonal and yearly catch rates and population length and weight distributions . Next you need to record the angler. This is important because everyone who can fish is not always equally skilled therefore over time you may find evidence that particular anglers have a higher or lower catch rate then the average group. Also, it never fails that someone will record very bad data and therefore you may cull out their catch records completely. You may or may not want to also keep record of time and temperature. Time will help in creating a catch rate per hour data set and you may possibly use time to help define when fish are most active during the day in your water body. Temperature can be extremely important when you are trying to divide the data up into seasonal groupings or if you simply want to keep track of how your fish relate to temperature throughout the day. The final four items are a must on any catch record. First species, especially in multiple species lakes, you have to know what people are actually catching. Next is length, this is important because it will be our first indicator of growth and can be a way to look at population distribution. Length should be taken in a consistent and standard form such as total length measured in inches. Weight can be just as important as length however it seems to be harder to record this data consistently. Therefore, I recommend providing the same scale to every angler to help standardize your results. Weight like length can be an indicator of growth and is a good way to look at population distribution, but it can be seasonally dependent. Perhaps most importantly weight can be combined with length to analysis individual body condition of a fish. Weight should be measured consistently and in a standard form such as Lbs and oz or Lbs and tenths of Lbs. Finally to finish off our catch chart I prefer to record the status of a fish. To me this means if the fish is Released or Culled. This is important because as your management practices grow you may surpass slot limits and move into an advance method of culling fish. Below I will have a link to download the catch chart pictures above for your personal use.
I would then take this exact data and chart it in a pie chart to show the grouped lengths as a percentage of the entire population. Immediately it becomes evident that 11-13 inch bass make up 59% of the fish caught. This help to solidify the theory that this size class dominates the population. It would therefore be a reasonably safe assumption that if a culling program was implemented on the lake this size class of fish would be a strong candidate for removal using a slot limit.
I believe this is a great place to press pause and let some of these ideas sink in before we add the weight component of interpreting the data. Hopefully this isn't to overwhelming and will help you in the long run to manage your fishery.
Until next time thank you for reading and Happy Fishing!
Steven Bardin M.S.