Fishing Effort Survey At-a-Glance
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program implements a national network of recreational fishing surveys. The Fishing Effort Survey gathers information about the number of trips anglers take in Hawaii and along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
How does NOAA Fisheries collect information about recreational fishing effort?
NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program administers a household mail Fishing Effort Survey from Main to Mississippi and in Hawaii. FES is self-administered and collects trip information for each resident of a responding household where we ask them to report their trips over a specified time period. To sample, we use a USPS list of residential addresses matched to the National Saltwater Angler Registry, which is a database of licensed anglers. This creates a sampling frame of licensed and unlicensed households, and we sample those at different rates. This is done to help obtain a representative sample while optimizing sampling efficiency.
The number of trips taken from for-hire vessels is collected through the For-Hire Survey.
FES collects trip information for each resident of a responding household for specified two-month periods:
- Number of days fished from shore in state of residence
- Number of days fished from private or rental boat in state of residence
Because our sample needs to represent the fishing activity of all residents of participating states—and not just the residents who fish—all household members are asked to respond, even if they didn’t fish during the period of time the survey asks about.
How many mail surveys are sent out each year, and how many people respond?
Each year, about 303,000 residential households across 17 states receive the Fishing Effort Survey in the mail. Response rates are consistently above 30 percent. The Fishing Effort Survey also includes questions about weather and outdoor activity. A response from someone who didn’t fish at all is just as valuable to our survey as one from someone who fished every day.
Read our annual FES reports for response rates and other survey details
How are the data collected by the Fishing Effort Survey used?
Our fishing effort data are combined with catch-per-trip data 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 balance access to fishing and promote the long-term health of fish populations.
Learn how we estimate total recreational catch
How does responding to the Fishing Effort Survey benefit me?
Your participation in our surveys helps us produce more accurate estimates of recreational catch and effort. These estimates help stock assessment scientists and fisheries managers monitor the health of fish stocks and support sustainable fishing opportunities now and for generations to come.
If I haven't been surveyed, how do I know my trips count?
We take steps to ensure the sample of households we survey is representative of the recreational fishing population in our target states. Sample surveys are a standard statistical survey method and allow us to draw reasonable conclusions about the full recreational fishing community without having to collect catch and effort information from each of our millions of saltwater anglers.
Learn more about survey statistics
How do you measure effort from anglers that don't live in coastal states?
While the Fishing Effort Survey is only sent to households in coastal states, the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, which is used to estimate catch-per-trip, is conducted with recreational anglers regardless of where they reside. Because the APAIS asks anglers through dockside interviews to report their state and county of residence, its data can be used to calculate a coverage adjustment that can be applied to our effort estimates to account for out-of-frame angler trips. It would be expensive and inefficient to conduct the FES in non-coastal states, where the likelihood of reaching households whose residents participated in marine recreational fishing is low.
Why do you collect demographic data?
Questions about age, gender, race, and ethnicity help us determine whether our sample is representative of the full fishing community. By comparing our data to population benchmarks provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, we can determine whether our sample is over- or under-representing any major population group, and whether statistical adjustments must be applied. Including questions about demographic characteristics is a common survey practice, and all federal surveys must be reviewed and approved to ensure demographic questions are appropriately asked.
Are your survey design and effort estimates reliable?
While no statistical surveys are free of errors, our staff practice extensive quality assurance and control measures before our estimates are published. This includes checking for errors in data entry and investigating any unusual changes in trends for high-interest, rare-event, and federally managed species. As part of our commitment to continuous evaluation and improvement, we regularly conduct research on our existing methods of data collection and recommend new or improved survey designs. This includes our transition from the coastal household telephone survey to FES.
Learn more about the transition to the FES