Piscine Populations (WSJCANC)


This lesson will illustrate population management methods used by Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) fisheries biologists. Participants learn how and why biologists monitor fish populations in Arkansas and how this data is used to set annual fishing regulations. Scientific research will also show them that fish possession limits are needed.

Grade Level:

4 - 8

Recommended Setting:

Indoor or outdoor classroom

Outdoor Activity:



Witt Stephens Junior Central Arkansas Nature Center, Little Rock


Education Coordinator, 501-907-0636


30 - 45 minutes

Suggested Number of Participants:



  • Realize what would happen if people could keep unlimited numbers of fish.
  • Understand how AGFC biologists balance fish populations with angler desires before recommending fishing regulations to commissioners.
  • Learn how to find key information in the fishing regulations guidebook

Key Terms*:

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC)

AGFC commissioners

Amendment 75 of 1996

Carrying capacity

Central Arkansas Nature Center (CANC)

Commercial fish


Fish tags

Fisheries biologist

Fisheries management

Fishing regulations

Gill net

Population sampling


Shoreline seine

Sport fish

Trap net

*See glossary for definations


Arkansas fishing regulations guidebooks

Current Lake Atkins management plan

Key terms sheets for Power Point program

Lake Atkins fish population sample

Map of Lake Atkins

Power Point of AGFC fisheries biologists collecting information on fish

Question sheets on fishing regulations


Arkansas has more than 200 fish species, and many are sought by anglers and commercial fishermen. The diversity of fish species, lakes, reservoirs and streams in Arkansas requires careful monitoring to ensure healthy fish populations. AGFC has more than 25 biologists who work with fisheries management.


  1. Introduce yourself and the CANC. Explain that it is owned and operated by AGFC and showcases the agency’s mission. Also tell how Amendment 75 of 1996 funds paid for the facility and allow free admission.
  2. Ask how many fish species Arkansas has. Allow a few guesses before telling them there are more than 200. Explain that most are not sportfish or commercial fish, and define these terms.
  3. Explain that AGFC has more than 25 fisheries biologists that work with fisheries management. Use the Power Point and key terms sheets to illustrate how biologists use population sampling with electrofishing, gill and trap nets, shoreline seines and rotenone. Point out that AGFC fisheries biologists manage all species, not just sport fish, and monitor carrying capacity of lakes and streams. Pass out the fish tags and explain that fisheries biologists tag fish for population sampling, catch rate estimates and other information. The participants should use the tag applicator to apply a tag and note this does not harm fish. Explain key terms so participants can take notes on their sheets.
  4. Distribute copies of the Lake Atkins fish population sample and Lake Atkins map. Divide participants into teams. Ask them questions on what they would do to increase or decrease species numbers, size of fish, etc., based on the population sample.
  5. Survey the fishing regulations process and how it is based on scientific data fisheries biologists collect each year. Explain that AGFC commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, oversee the agency and set all AGFC regulations based on staff input.
  6. Distribute the regulations guidebooks and question sheets. Tell participants they can collaborate to find the answers for 10 - 15 minutes.
  7. Go over the sheet with the class and give correct answers. Make sure they understand that everyone must follow regulations when fishing, even those under 16 who do not have to buy a license.


Add math activities by using results from the Lake Atkins sample. (This could be used as a post-visit activity.)


  • How many fish species are in Arkansas?
  • How many fish biologists are employed by AGFC? What are their responsibilities?
  • Who is responsible for setting fishing regulations in Arkansas?

Participant Information Sheets:

• Fish Population Sample

Participant Worksheets:

• 2008 Fishing Regulations
• Key Sheet for 2008 Fishing Regulations


Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) – the state agency responsible for managing fish and wildlife


AGFC Commissioners – seven individuals appointed by the governor to oversee the AGFC’s agency operations and set hunting and fishing regulations; commissioners serve staggered seven-year terms so that only one expires each year


Carrying capacity – the amount of fish that a given water body can sustain based on its nutrient and oxygen levels, presence of pollutants, biological food chain, and habitat structure for various species; carrying capacity is closely monitored by AGFC fisheries biologists to maintain fish populations within healthy ranges


Commercial fish – any of several species that are caught and sold for value as food, animal feed and other uses; AGFC has special regulations for commercial fishing


Electrofishing – a population sampling method used by fisheries biologists that employs an electrical current from a generator that passes through steel cables into the water; temporarily stuns fish so they can be dipped from the water for data collection and then safely released


Fisheries biologist – a scientist who studies and manages wild fish populations


Fisheries management – the scientific guidelines and procedures used by fisheries biologists to accurately provide for healthy fish populations


Fishing regulations – legal codes set by AGFC to ensure sustainable fish populations for enjoyment of the people; Commissioners review scientific recommendations from fisheries biologists and input from the public before establishing regulations


Gill net – a fish trapping net used by fisheries biologists to collect fish for data samples; fish swim into the net and become entangled and held until removed by the biologists


Population sampling – routine monitoring of the type and numbers of fish species conducted by fisheries biologists to keep historical data and make management decisions


Rotenone – a compound from a tropical plant that coats the gills of fish and causes suffocation; used by fisheries biologists as a population sampling method


Shoreline seine – a net with weights at the bottom that is pulled through the water to capture fish for data samples


Sport fish – any species of fish sought by recreational anglers by rod or pole for food or enjoyment of catching; AGFC sets regulations concerning sport fish angling that are listed in the annual fishing guidebook and online at www.agfc.com


Trap net – a device made with a series of frames in a funnel shape that leads fish into the smallest section where they are trapped for data samples