Angler Satisfaction, Demographic, and Creel Surveys-Upper Madison River, 2015 - 2017 

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks recently released a report on Angler Satisfaction, Demographic, and Creel Surveys for the Upper Madison River from 2015 to 2017. The studies included remote camera sensing, a mail-in survey, and creel survey aimed to address three primary questions: 1) What are the perceptions and satisfaction levels of anglers of varying experience (years fished) on the upper Madison River? 2) What are the perceptions, satisfaction levels, demographics, and catch statistics of anglers currently fishing the Madison River? 3) In comparing an inclusive mail survey and stratified creel survey, are there trends in use that can guide management of the Madison River into the future?

From 2015 to 2017 a remote sensing camera was seasonally deployed to count the number of watercraft passing near Lyons Bridge Fishing Access Site. Madison River Special Recreation permit data was then used to determine the number of commercial trips. Boat counts were highest during the month of July with approximately 100 boats passing per day. Guided use as a percent of total use was highest in August and September at 68 and 71 percent.

The mail-in survey in 2016 was delivered to 5,792 anglers selected for the study from a list of anglers previously identified as having fished the Madison Drainage. The anglers selected had reported fishing the upper Madison River during biennial pressure surveys conducted from 2001 to 2015. For analysis of the survey results, the river was split into two reaches: Hebgen Dam to Lyons Bridge and Lyons Bridge to Ennis Lake. Results from the survey are below:


In 2017 the creel survey was conducted from March 13th to December 11th to identify and describe the current angling population, their perceptions, as well as catch rates by species and location. 1,262 anglers were surveyed of which 68.9% were non-residents from other states, 29% residents, and 1.7% international anglers. Of the Montana residents 18% were Gallatin County residents and 5.4% were Madison County residents. 25% of anglers interviewed identified as first-time upper Madison River anglers. Interview questions asked during the 2017 creel survey included a suite of characteristics that defined the quality of their experience. Forty-four percent of those censused indicated scenic values most determined satisfaction with their fishing experience. Fishing partners/company was the second most important with 24% of anglers. Twenty-one percent of anglers identified catching a lot of fish as the important factor in their experience. Other factors were all selected as most important less than 5% of the time. The final question asked of interviewed anglers was open-ended: “What do you think are the major problems (if any) with fishing on the Upper Madison River?” Twenty-five percent of censused anglers specified crowding was an issue.

A comparison of results with overall satisfaction between the mail in and creel survey:


FWP’s report well summarized important data that has been gathered on the upper Madison River for the last couple of years. With the increasing use on the Madison River, the need for sound data on recreational and commercial use is more vital than ever.

Full Report