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Miami Valley Fly Fishers Provide Trout Data to Ohio Fisheries Biologist

May 10, 2011
By Brenda Layman
The Mad River is the only true year-round trout fishery in Ohio. Anglers catch brown trout, rainbow trout, and the occasional brook trout in over 30 river-miles of cold, running water. Fisheries Biologist Ethan Simmons gathers and interprets data that enable him to manage the trout population in the Mad so that it maintains its reputation as Ohio’s premier public trout fishing destination. These are home waters for the Madmen, an Ohio chapter of Trout Unlimited. Madmen President Tom Allen and Joe Nagel of Miami Valley Fly Fishers have created an online survey that enables the public to assist Simmons by providing him with ongoing information about what they catch, where they catch it, and what kind of lure or bait they use. This collaboration between state officials and the public helps everyone concerned.

I met with Ethan Simmons and he gave me a brief history of the Mad River’s evolution from a trickling drainage stream to a popular trout fishery. Around the turn of the 20th century, a number of small streams in Ohio were dredged and straightened to provide better drainage for farmland. With its natural twists and turns removed, the river’s water flowed fast and dug deep, scouring the riverbed down to cobble and tapping into cold springs that lay below. This created ideal habitat for cold-water-loving trout. Brook trout populated the stream; soon rainbow trout were added, and eventually the state began stocking brown trout.

Today the state of Ohio stocks the Mad River with about 12,000 six-to-eight-inch brown trout annually. Part of Simmons’ job is to decide just how many to stock, and where. Biologists conduct surveys to determine the number of fish in the river, the variety of species, and the size and condition of the fish in each section. Some surveys are conducted with nets and others with electro-shocking equipment. Simmons says these surveys are both expensive and labor-intensive.

“Even then,” Simmons said, “We don’t know if anglers are catching what we’re catching. It’s a lot of work to get a limited amount of information.”

That’s where the Madmen come in. Each year the TU chapter sponsors the “Mad River Days” event, which includes a fishing survey. Anglers are assigned sections of the Mad, and they report their results. These results are sent to Simmons, who incorporates the data into his study. Madmen President Tom Allen mentioned this to fellow angler Joe Nagel. Nagel wrote to me with this explanation of how the survey came about:

“This got me to thinking – a lot of MVFF members fish the Mad; perhaps data collected from our fishing trips could help Ethan as well. So, I contacted Ethan directly to see if there was interest in something like this, and there was. At first, I thought of just collecting information and putting it into a spreadsheet, but this idea soon took on a life of its own. With the help and encouragement of a coworker (I work in IT), we were able to put together a prototype of the survey on-line. We realized having the survey on-line broadens the potential base of participation, to other fly fisherman and non-fly fisherman alike.”

According to Simmons, getting people to provide information is a great help to him as he creates the management plan for the Mad River. He says, “We ask ourselves how we can improve stocking rates and stocking success. The more data we have to work with, the better, more complete picture we can create. Then, we can make management decisions based on that. It’s always about caring for the fishery, making it as healthy as possible and providing great fishing opportunities for anglers.”

Access the survey at .

Brenda Layman is a freelance outdoor writer from Pickerington, Ohio. She is the Feature Writer for Hunting & Fishing for online magazine, Suite 101 and the Columbus Fishing Examiner.

Contact Layman at

Article Photos

Ohio Valley Outdoors– Photo by Mark Layman
Ohio Valley Outdoors writer Brenda Layman fishes the Mad River during the winter.

Fact Box

“We realized having the survey on-line broadens the potential base of
participation, to other fly fisherman and non-fly fisherman alike.”
– Joe Nagel, Miami Valley Fly Fishers



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