There have been a few threads in the last few months that have discussed the issue of being "secretive about stream information to protect our streams" v. "increasing angler success leads to increased participation which leads to more folks seeing that our streams are protected".

There was discussion that the number of anglers has actually gone down over the years and that fewer people fish in the Park today than in years past. But there didn't seem to be any hard facts behind our discussion. I had a little bit of free time this evening and started doing some research.

In general nationally, over the last 15 years or so the number of people that fish and the number of times that each person fishes has gone down. From the period 1996 to 2006 the number of licensed anglers went down 14.8%. At the same time the number of days spent fishing went down 17.4%. The East South Central Region has seen a less dramatic drop across that same period (approximately 5% down from 1996).

The State of TN has seen drops in license sales as well since 2001. The graphs that include in the TWRA Strategic Plan indicated that there has been a slight increase in total fishing days across the state from 1996 to now, but that it has dropped off dramatically in the last 6 years. Specifically I was reviewing the statistics for stream based trout fishing, which includes the Park and most of the East TN counties.

So what does that mean? There are less people fishing now than in the past, but really there is no definitive evidence that fishing pressure has gone up or down over the past 10-15 years (with the popularity of the internet as a medium to spread good fishing stories...). And its really hard to tell if there has been a migration of anglers from tailwaters to park streams, etc.

I did find something else interesting in the TWRA Strategic Plan. TWRA is looking hard at trying to expand the number of anglers. Here is a set of specific action items that they intended to take to increase participation:
IX. Problem: Many anglers and potential anglers are not aware of existing stream fishing opportunities in Tennessee. Less avid anglers need additional motivation.
1. Promote stream fishing in Tennessee at a local, regional, and national level using professional advertising strategies. These efforts should target new anglers and persuade existing anglers to fish in Tennessee.
2. Develop maps identifying fishing opportunities for trout and warmwater species.
3. Complete the wild trout map. Update the stocked trout waters website. Add the tailwater maps to the website. Prepare a warmwater stream fishing map to include access points, navigable waters, and access rules.
4. Promote stream and river fishing at kid’s fishing events, in presentations to schools and other youth organizations, and at sporting goods shows, fairs, and public audiences.
5. Inform state and local tourism agencies about stream fishing opportunities in their area so that they can help us promote fishing.
6. Include two segments per year on Tennessee’s Wildside (television program) about stream fishing.
7. Publish two articles per year in Tennessee Wildlife magazine on stream fishing.
8. Promote the Tennessee Angler Recognition Program (TARP). Anglers targeting TARP species such as rock bass, brown trout, brook trout, and smallmouth bass will fish streams and rivers. Many of the existing TARP fish have been caught in streams and rivers.
Here are some sites/reports that you can explore and draw your own conclusions:

I'm not sure which side of the argument is right. Perhaps it isn't black and white, at all. Maybe some streams need to be protected while more participation would ensure that other get protected. What's your opinion?
Do you think fishing in the park is better now than in the 90's (or 80s, or 40s?). And why?