Our reader survey is well underway, and while we’re nowhere near done gathering data, we’ve learned some surprising things.

For example, hardly anybody uses the solunar tables. This is great news for me, because it means I have a really good reason to not take 20 minutes every week to put them together. The solunar tables are basically the hunting and fishing equivalent of horoscopes: Most people think they’re bahooka, and others can’t plan their day without them.

If you’re in that second group, no worries. I’m not here to judge — I’m here to help. There’s a free website where you can get solunar tables that are even more detailed than the ones we’ve been running in WaterLine. Just go to http://bit.ly/2REz349.

Anther insight: Not as many of you fish as I would have thought. About a quarter of our survey respondents don’t fish. I’m not quite certain what to make of that one, especially in consideration of how fishing-heavy our current content is.

Also, the average WaterLine reader spends more time watching birds and wildlife than any of us would have guessed. In fact, on an average day, there are more WaterLine readers doing that than fishing. I’ve always believed there was a lot of interest in “non-consumptive” outdoor recreation, but I would not have guessed it was that high.

These results are leading me to rethink how I balance WaterLine and the Outdoor Living section in the Thursday Sun newspapers, which I also edit. A few months ago, I was thinking I’d be moving more of the nature-oriented material to Outdoor Living. Now that would seem to be a mistake, so it’s time to come up with a new plan.

We have a larger contingent of RV owners than I realized, and a lot more folks actively engaged in paddlesports. There’s also a significantly higher percentage of hunters and shooters than I had expected.

This is why I love surveys: They’re a way to collect hard data that is otherwise really difficult or impossible to guess accurately. As I said in last week’s column, I want this to be your magazine, so I think it’s really a helpful thing for you to tell me where it’s going right and where it’s going wrong.

Of course, knowing what you want is one thing — doing it is quite another. Here are the changes you can expect to see phased in over the coming weeks:

• Solunar tables are gone, effective this week.

• Greg Bartz will be refocusing his bass fishing columns into a more seminar-oriented format (similar to our Angling 101 and 201 columns), providing more how-to information. These columns will appear every other week. You’ll notice the change in a couple weeks.

• On the weeks Greg’s bass column does not appear, he will be writing a column about the RV lifestyle — again, with a seminar format. The first of these is scheduled for Nov. 22.

• Abbie Banks will be providing more practical birdwatching information in her columns, beginning with the one on page 13 this week.

• Jenny Malone will resume her Gun Girl columns sometime in the next few weeks. She’s planning to write one a month. We’ll add another gun writer so we can have a column every other week. It might be a familiar face or it might be a new one.

• The weeks we don’t have a shooting column, we’ll have a hunting column. I haven’t settled on a writer for these yet, nor do I know exactly when they’ll debut.

• I’m now on the hunt for a paddlesports writer, or maybe two. I’m thinking about one to write about paddlesports in general and perhaps one to focus specifically on kayak fishing, which is also more popular than I would have thought.

• The interest in environmental issues was higher than any other single topic. I know a lot of that is due to the ongoing red tide problems, but I agree with you that we should be paying more attention to it. The trick is to find someone who can explain the problems well without getting overly technical, and exploring things that often need political solutions without getting political. I need to think on this one a bit. Care to offer any guidance?

One other thing that really surprised me: The low percentage of female readers. I would have guessed it was between 25 and 30 percent, but the survey says it’s more like 17 percent. A special request to our female audience: If you could take a moment to email me with any suggestions for getting more lady readers, I would very much appreciate the input.

In the meantime, the survey is still up and running, and there are still five $50 Publix gift cards up for grabs. I’d like to get about twice the number of responses we currently have, so it will stay open for probably the next week or two. You can take the survey at SurveyMonkey.com/r/7TP5FNT or http://bit.ly/2ABv2ry, or simply scan the QR code above with your phone or tablet.


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