|Abstract:||Executive Summary: For over 75 years, the Federal Aid in Sport Fish Restoration Fund has worked with state partners to conserve, protect, and enhance fish and their habitats, along with the sport fishing and recreational boating opportunities they provide. During more than a third of the existence of this important conservation program, Project F-69-R has been the cornerstone for collection and analysis of Illinois fisheries data, with a specific focus through much of its existence on understanding the interface between recreational anglers and the recreational fisheries on which they depend. F-69-R has produced a wide array of groundbreaking research findings, supported modern advancements in fisheries management, and implemented state-of-the-art technologies for fisheries data management. Most recently, this project has opened the door to connect resource users with data-driven information about Illinois fisheries through the use of emergent Internet technologies.In its first few years, Project F-69-R was tasked with developing an efficient method for conducting regular creel surveys on inland lakes in Illinois. Additionally, several research studies led to improvements in sampling design and a better understand-ing of how the efficiency of sampling gear used by fisheries managers is affected by environmental conditions. The design and implementation of creel surveys and more effective sampling was supported by what was, at the time, a cutting-edge computer-ized system for storing and analyzing fisheries data, the Fisheries Analysis System (FAS). This system became the single tool used by fisheries managers and researchers alike to tap into valuable information about sport fish populations across the state. Illinois emerged as a leader in fisheries data management through the development of FAS, serving as a model for other states to develop their own systems.From 1992 – 2009, Project F-69-R was focused on the execution of inland creel surveys, producing 334 lake and river creel surveys that have played a major role in fisheries management decisions, such as setting size and bag limits, informing supple-mental stocking strategies, and identifying needs for habitat improvement. Data from those creel surveys has been utilized by other Federal Aid Projects as well. For example, a project evaluating the effectiveness of stocking largemouth bass at certain sizes and anther project evaluating the regulation and stocking strategies designed to improve stunted bluegill populations were among the many projects that utilized creel survey data on study lakes. The combination of managing long-term fisheries data and addressing emerging research needs continues to be the corner-stone of Project F-69-R today. In the last three years, the breadth of research topics has expanded to include an evaluation of urban stream restoration on the DuPage River (p. 4–5), an in-depth investigation into largemouth bass recruitment dynamics as affected by spring angling (p. 6–7), an assessment of land-use practices and their impacts through the Fishes of Champaign County study (p. 8), and an investigation into natural reproduction of lake trout in southern Lake Michigan (p. 10). Bringing this information back to the angler has been a key component of Project F-69-R for the last 10 years through the creation of IFishIllinois.org and its social media counterparts (p. 9).A bright and exciting future is unfolding for the Sport Fish Restoration Program, and F-69-R is a central piece of that future in Illinois. Within these pages is a snapshot of the many contributions this project has made to sustaining sport fish populations in Illinois. As this project evolves to answer more complex, data-driven research questions to inform fisheries management decisions, anglers in Illinois will have access to a wide array of sustainable fisheries for generations to come.Good Fishing!
Dr. Jeffrey A. Stein, Project LeaderSenior Research ScientistIllinios Natural History Survey