Access Point Angler Intercept Survey At-a-Glance
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program implements a national network of recreational fishing surveys. The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey gathers catch-per-trip information from saltwater anglers along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
How does NOAA Fisheries collect information about recreational catch?
From Maine to Mississippi and in Hawaii, NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program administers the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey to collect catch-per-trip data from anglers fishing from shore, private boats, and for-hire vessels. To conduct APAIS, specially trained state samplers visit marinas, boat ramps, beaches, piers, and other public fishing access sites and survey anglers as they complete their fishing trips.
These data inform our estimates of total recreational catch.
We generate our sample frame by crossing our public access fishing site register, which is an online database of thousands of public access sites, with a day-time calendar. We sample sites at different rates based on fishing pressure levels, or the estimated number of anglers we expect to be at the site at a given day or time. We send interviewers to sample high activity sites more frequently, but include low activity sites to help obtain a representative sample and capture variation in fishing activity.
During each APAIS interview, state samplers record, of note:
- Mode of the angler’s trip (e.g., shore, private or rental boat, or for-hire vessel)
- General area where the angler fished (e.g., inland, state territorial sea, or federal Exclusive Economic Zone)
- Species, number, and disposition of the angler’s catch (e.g., observed harvest, reported harvest, or released alive)
- Where possible, length and weight of harvested fish
State agencies coordinate in-person, on-site data collection efforts, and state staff conduct angler interviews. Regional fisheries information networks provide data storage and quality control.
Samplers, also known as field interviewers, play no role in law enforcement, and any personal information collected through the program is kept confidential.
How many trips are intercepted each year, and what happens to the information anglers share?
Each year, hundreds of field interviewers across 16 states intercept about 86,000 angler trips. Data from the APAIS are primarily used to estimate average catch per fishing trip. These catch-per-trip estimates are combined with effort estimates to produce estimates of total recreational catch. State and federal stock assessment scientists use recreational catch estimates to inform their understanding of stock size and sustainable harvest levels. Fisheries managers use this information to set regulations that ensure access to fishing and promote the long-term health of fish populations.
Learn how we estimate total recreational catch
How does this survey benefit me?
Our understanding of saltwater recreational catch depends on complete and accurate data provided by recreational anglers. Taking a few minutes to share information about your fishing trip is one of the most important contributions you can make to fisheries science, management, and the sustainability of a great American pastime. When you share information about your fishing trip, you are playing an important role in supporting sustainable fishing opportunities.
How do interviewers decide where to go?
Field interviewers are assigned to visit public fishing access sites during specific times of day. We use standard statistical methods to select sites that will produce a representative sample of fishing trips. We sample sites at different rates based on fishing pressure levels, or the estimated number of anglers we expect to be at the site at a given day or time. We send interviewers to sample high activity sites more frequently, but include low activity sites to help obtain a representative sample and capture variation in fishing activity.
What is an interviewer's daily assignment like?
Field interviewers conduct surveys during all times of day, and work the entire length of their six-hour assignment. This means you may see a sampler at night, or working at a site where fishing activity is low.
Each sampling assignment includes a date, a time interval, one or two sites that should be sampled, and the order in which these sites should be visited.
Why do interviewers survey anglers who didn't catch any fish?
Our sample needs to be representative of all saltwater fishing trips, regardless of how many fish, if any, were caught. If we only sampled trips where anglers caught fish, our catch estimates would be biased (and likely, too high).
Why do interviewers survey anglers who are visiting from out of town?
Interviewing both resident and non-resident anglers ensures our sample is representative of all saltwater fishing trips. It also gives us the information we need to adjust the effort data we collect through our mail Fishing Effort Survey of households in coastal states. In other words, if we didn't use the APAIS to gather information from out-of-state residents, we wouldn't be able to account for the fish those anglers catch or the trips they take.
Why do interviewers survey for-hire clients instead of for-hire captains?
Because our methods for estimating shore, private boat, and for-hire catch are based on information collected from individual angler trips, we collect catch data from individual shore, private boat, and for-hire anglers. In other words, by conducting the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey with for-hire clients instead of their captains, we ensure our for-hire catch data is consistent with and comparable to the catch data we collect for other fishing modes.
While some for-hire clients may be unfamiliar with the details of their charter or headboat trip, field interviewers are trained to help anglers accurately identify the area they fished and the species they encountered. Our data review process is further designed to detect potential errors.
Why do interviewers collect economic data?
Every five years, NOAA Fisheries conducts the Marine Recreational Fishing Expenditure Survey as an “add-on” to the APAIS. Also known as the Socio-Economic Add-On Survey, or SEAS, these additional questions ask anglers about their fishing-related expenses, from the cost of bait and fuel to transportation, lodging, and food. Understanding how much anglers spend on their fishing trips improves our understanding of how marine recreational fishing contributes to jobs, sales, and income. This information also supports economic analyses of fisheries policies.
Why does it matter what one angler reports?
The success of our surveys relies on the participation of the people we sample. Because it's not practical or possible for us to intercept the millions of recreational anglers fishing along our coasts, each trip we do sample may represent dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of trips.
Why should I participate more than once?
Even if you've been surveyed before, the unique characteristics of your current fishing trip—such as the date, time, and place you fished, or the species you caught—haven't been incorporated into our data. No two fishing trips are alike, and our survey is designed to capture those differences.
Why haven't I been interviewed?
With millions of fishing trips taking place each year, it's not possible to intercept every trip that occurs or to gather information from every angler who fishes. While no two fishing trips are the same, the statistical process that drives the selection of sampling sites ensures the anglers we do interview are representative of the broader recreational fishing community.
What can I do to help?
If you're asked to participate in a recreational fishing survey, we encourage you to provide complete and accurate information, even if you didn’t fish, or didn’t catch anything. This will help us produce more accurate estimates of recreational catch. You can also encourage other anglers to participate in recreational fishing surveys; voice your support for state, regional, and national data collection programs; or get involved in fisheries management through your state marine fisheries agency, interstate marine fisheries commission, or regional fishery management council.