Access Point Angler Intercept Survey At-a-Glance

February 07, 2018

On the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Alabama, the Marine Recreational Information Program gathers catch information through in-person interviews with anglers at public access fishing sites. Samplers count and interview all anglers at each site. During the interview, samplers measure and weigh all landed fish and ask how many of each species anglers released. The following are questions frequently asked about this survey.

How does NOAA Fisheries Collect angler catch data?

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.

Who conducts the survey and how do they decide where to go?

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.


How do sampling assignments work?

  • Samplers conduct interviews during all parts of the day, including at night.
  • Samplers stay at a specified location for a specified amount of time, regardless of the amount of fishing. That means you may see samplers at some sites where there’s not much activity.
  • Sampling assignments are built using an online database of every publicly accessible fishing site from Maine to Louisiana. Anglers can use this database too, and help keep it accurate by updating any incorrect or out-of-date information. Visit our site register to learn more.
  • Each sampling assignment includes a date, a specific site cluster, a predetermined order in which to visit sites in that cluster, a time interval for the assignment, and a fishing mode to sample.
  • A site cluster is a group of sites with similar characteristics. Each cluster contains one or two sites. Sites are clustered by mode, level of fishing activity (also called pressure), and geographic proximity.
  • Modes are either shore, private boat, charter boat, or private and charter boat combined.

What is an example of a dockside sampler's assignment?

Sampling Date: June 24, 2016

Time Interval: 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Mode: shore

Site Cluster: 2 sites, medium pressure

1:50 p.m.

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.

5:22 p.m.

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.

Do samplers interview anglers at private fishing sites?

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.

Why do field samplers interview anglers who did not catch any fish?

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.

Will samplers stay at a site where no one is fishing or if there is bad weather?

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.

How many anglers are surveyed each year? What happens to the information they provide to samplers?

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

What changes have been made to APAIS recently?

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:

  • Build stronger relationships with anglers. The sampler counting your catch now works for the same agency you already connect with regularly to learn about where and when you can fish, and what you can keep.
  • Work better together toward shared goals. State agencies and fishermen have the shared goal of keeping our fisheries sustainable while optimizing quality fishing experiences.
  • Broaden our reach. Greater involvement by each state creates more opportunities for sharing information and collaborating among fisheries agencies and fishermen at the local, state, regional, and federal levels.

How does APAIS affect me?

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.