On the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts from Maine to Louisiana, NOAA Fisheries works in partnership with state agencies to gather recreational catch information through the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, or APAIS.
Samplers are assigned to a publicly accessible fishing site during a specific time of day. Their job is to interview and count each angler coming in from a fishing trip, regardless of whether the angler caught any fish. During an interview, samplers measure and weigh all landed fish, and ask for the number and species of fish that were released.
A team of trained field samplers conducts the angler catch surveys. States either manage their own survey programs, which puts them in charge of hiring and overseeing their field samplers, or work with our federal contractor on behalf of NOAA Fisheries.
Samplers are given an assignment to visit predetermined sites in a specific order on a specific day and time. Each assignment is produced by a computer model that randomly selects sites based on certain characteristics. This ensures we get a representative sample of all types of fishing activity.
Sampling Date: June 24, 2016
Time Interval: 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Site Cluster: 2 sites, medium pressure
Arrive at Site 1 in cluster. Unpack gear and prepare to begin assignment. At 2:00 p.m., begin counting and interviewing all anglers. After three hours, depart site.
Arrive at Site 2 in cluster (after drive time). Count and interview all anglers. At 8:00 p.m., conclude interviews and depart site. Assignment is complete.
Field samplers are not permitted on private property, which means we only interview anglers at public fishing access points like state-operated piers, boat ramps, and parks. We have an ongoing study comparing fishing at both private and public sites to find out if there are differences, like catch rates or species targeted, that might impact our catch estimates. The results of this study may lead to further improvements to our angler catch survey if necessary.
We need a representative sample of all fishing trips, including those where many fish were caught and those where none were caught. If we only sampled anglers who caught fish, our estimates would be skewed high. By sampling all types of trips, we gather information that truly reflects the fishing that’s occurring.
Strict adherence to the sampling design is imperative for collecting statistically sound data. This means a sampler is required to stay at a site for the duration of the assignment, even if there is little or no fishing activity there. This is a case where documenting no fishing activity is valuable data. It’s giving us a complete picture of what’s happening – or not happening – on the water.
In order for our survey to be statistically rigorous, field samplers must sample according to their pre-determined assignments. That includes cases of bad weather and natural disasters, unless it poses a threat to the safety of the sampler. No-fishing days are also reflected by our effort survey, which calls anglers on the phone to find out how many fishing trips they’ve taken recently.
Approximately 111,000 anglers are surveyed each year on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Catch data are combined with information from our effort surveys to produce an estimate of total catch. This estimate is then combined with other sources of information to assess the health of fish stocks, set catch limits, and make regulations.
Estimating total catch
Beginning in 2016, all the specially trained samplers who count your catch work for the marine fisheries agency in the state where you’ve been fishing, or where you end your trip if you’ve been fishing in federal waters. Using local samplers allows us to:
Many individuals and organizations play different roles in keeping our fisheries sustainable. As an angler, the data you provide to dockside samplers helps shape the science and management decisions that directly impact you.