Anglers, as is well known, have a tendency to exaggerate their catches.
The same cannot be said about the Utah State University economists who recently conducted a report on the economic impact of Blue Ribbon Fisheries in Utah.
The economists say that conservatively, they estimate anglers contributed $259 million in direct spending to fish in Utah in 2011 about $184 million of that spent specifically to fish Utah's Blue Ribbon waters.
Those direct expenditures included things such as lodging, groceries, gasoline, restaurants and equipment rentals. Indirect economic output by anglers on Blue Ribbon waters contributed another $143 million to the economy, the report said.
The USU study also tallied $35 million in tax revenue for state and local governments from the Blue Ribbon Fisheries program.
The numbers are based only on a portion of the 500,000 or so anglers that visit the state every year to dunk a worm, throw a lure or cast a fly. The number of 288,000 anglers, on which the report is based, came from the 2006 U.S. Census.
Paul Jakus, co-author of "The Economic Contribution and Benefits of Utah's Blue Ribbon Fisheries" said the study's authors purposely used a conservative estimate of anglers.
"Weighing the methodology to come up with a population estimates makes it complicated," he said. "Our tendency is to go conservative and make sure what we are doing is closer to the lower end."
If the sum total of all licensed anglers was used, Jakus acknowledges, the numbers would be much higher. As it is, the number only reflects a portion of licensed Utah resident anglers and does not include non-resident anglers, who spend substantially more than the estimated $90 per day typical Blue Ribbon fishers do.
"It is difficult to argue pie-in-the sky numbers. We know this is only a slice of the real value Blue Ribbon and all fisheries bring to Utah," said Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council Chairman George Sommer. "If people tell us these numbers are wrong we can say we know the total is actually much, much higher."
There have been plenty of fishing surveys in Utah through the years, but they have focused on proposed regulation changes, visitation and perceptions, not on economic benefits.
This study showed that Wasatch County benefitted the most from Blue Ribbon Fisheries, with more than $110 million of total economic input from anglers heading to waters like Strawberry Reservoir, the middle Provo River, Jordanelle Reservoir and Currant Creek.
Daggett/Uintah counties pulled in second as the favorite destination area for Blue Ribbon Fisheries with the Green River and Flaming Gorge Reservoir being the main draws. Garfield County saw more than $17 million in contributions from anglers visiting Lake Powell, Panguitch Lake, Panguitch Creek and Corn Creek.
Sommer said the county numbers are important because many local governments are still reluctant to acknowledge economic revenue comes from anglers.
Other key findings from the benefits of the 25 streams/rivers and 27 reservoirs included in the Blue Ribbon Fisheries program include:
• Sixty-six percent of all Utah anglers fished at Blue Ribbon Water in 2011.
• The total industry output stimulated by all fisheries in Utah was $460 million with a tax generated revenue of $50 million to state/local governments.
• For every dollar spent by anglers to fish a Blue Ribbon Fishery, $1.776 was generated.
• Anglers from counties outside of the county they were fishing constituted 94 percent of those on Blue Ribbon Fisheries in Wasatch and Garfield counties and 100 percent in Carbon County.
Craig Walker, special projects coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources aquatic section, said the report "provides a way for us to showcase the economic benefits of angling at Blue Ribbon waters and fishing in general to local economies. This is something we have wanted to provide to potential partners for a long time."
Sommer and Walker were also interested in another report highlight.
It turns out anglers are willing to pay close to $5 per trip more to visit a Blue Ribbon Fishery. The angling community has been pushing for an increase in the cost of a fishing license to keep the aquatics section on task for providing continued fishing opportunities. Advocates consider the finding in the USU study as an indication it is time for the state to seek the same.
"It is not a secret that we are considering a license fee increase," said chief of aquatics, Roger Wilson. "We are assembling a committee to look at the options. We haven't had an increase in a long time. This is another example of the support anglers are showing for an increase."
What is a Blue Ribbon Fishery?
The 13-member, governor-appointed Blue Ribbon Fisheries Advisory Council was created in 2005 by Gov. Jon Huntsman to advise the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on management, enhancement and protection of waters in the Blue Ribbon program.
The council allocates roughly $450,000 annually to Blue Ribbon projects, which is used to secure matching funds. Potential changes to Blue Ribbon Fisheries programs are considered by the council using a criteria score sheet. There are currently 25 streams and rivers and 27 reservoirs and lakes on the list.
There are currently two openings on the council an at-large spot and a warm-water representative position. Visit the Blue Ribbon Fisheries website for more information.
Blue Ribbon videos
To watch videos of some Utah Blue Ribbon Fisheries go to:
Green River • http://bit.ly/12SzRam
Panguitch Lake • http://bit.ly/Zf2xXe
Fish Lake• http://bit.ly/YR23qM
Flaming Gorge Reservoir • http://bit.ly/YivlL8
Lake Powell • http://bit.ly/10VKyVM