Environmental Biology of Fishes

, Volume 102, Issue 2, pp 319–328 | Cite as

Understanding the decline of catch-and-release fishery with angler knowledge: a key informant approach applied to South Florida bonefish

  • Emily K. N. Kroloff
  • Joel T. Heinen
  • Kathryn N. Braddock
  • Jennifer S. Rehage
  • Rolando O. SantosEmail author


Local ecological knowledge (LEK) is a valuable way to capture environmental and/or resource changes when there is an absence of biological data, such as in the case of ‘data-limited’ catch- and-release recreational fisheries. A powerful technique in LEK is the use of key informant interviews that selectively focus the most knowledgeable experts, and queries them about experiences, perspectives and beliefs. Here, we used LEK from key informants to obtain an in-depth understanding of angler and guide perspectives on the timing, placement and causes of bonefish decline, and effects on the fishery. Twenty in-depth interviews were conducted with the most-experienced anglers and fishing guides in South Florida (average 42 years of experience). Most respondents described a decline in the fishery that occurred over the 1990s (40% of respondents) and late 2000s (35%), with climate and water quality listed as top causes. Declines in number were larger than the declines in size, with Islamorada being one of the most impacted areas, and Biscayne Bay least impacted. Informants described declines in clientele targeting bonefish, shifts to other fisheries, and to locations outside South Florida. Responses emphasize the contribution of social science research methods, especially incorporating the cumulative knowledge of key stakeholders, to the understanding of ecological systems and their fisheries.


Local ecological knowledge Recreational fisheries Key informant interviews Catch-and-release fisheries Population decline 



We are grateful to all the South Florida guides and anglers who graciously shared their experience and passion for fishing with us in interviews, and to Brooke Black who helped us coordinate the interview process. The work by reviewed and deemed exempt by Florida International University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB Protocol exemption #: IRB-14-0235, August 26, 2014). The study was funded by Bonefish and Tarpon Trust and the develop with support from the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Gran No. DBI-0620409. This is contribution # 107 of the Center for Coastal Oceans Research in the Institute of Water and Enviroment at Florida International University. 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth and EnvironmentFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA

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