Glossary - Recreational Fishing Data

Available Data

Estimates: Calculated values derived through the application of statistical methods to survey data.

  • Catch: Contains estimates by year, wave, sub-region, state, mode of fishing, area of fishing, and species of the number of finfish caught and either harvested or released alive. Catch estimates through 2003 are calculated using MRFSS methodology. Estimates from 2004 - present are calculated using MRIP methodology.
  • Effort: Contains estimates by year, wave, sub-region, state, mode of fishing, and area of fishing of number of recreational fishing angler trips. Effort estimates through 2003 are calculated using MRFSS methodology. Estimates from 2004 - present are calculated using MRIP methodology.
  • Participation (1981 - 2012): Contains estimates by year, wave, sub-region, state, and resident type of number of anglers. Participation estimates are calculated using MRFSS methodology.

Survey Data: Data collected directly through our surveys of recreational fishing.

  • TRIP_YYYYW.sas7bdat (2004 - present): Trip level data (analogous to MRFSS i1 dataset) and variables required for use in estimation. Contains one record per angler-trip interview (identified by id_code).
  • CATCH_YYYYW.sas7bdat (2004 - present): Catch level data and variables required for use in estimation. Contains one record per species for every angler-trip interview.
  • SIZE_YYYYW.sas7bdat (2004 - present): Fish level length and weight data and variables required for use in estimation. Contains one record per fish caught and measured or weighed by interviewer.
  • INTERCEPT (1981 - 2003): Includes survey data collected through the dockside angler intercept surveys:
    • I1: Angler information
    • I2: Unavailable catch
    • I3: Available catch
    • I4: Grouped-catch followers
    • I6: Boat-party followers
    • I9: At-sea Discards
  • TELEPHONE (1981 - 2003): Includes survey data collected through the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS):
    • T1: Household information
    • T2: Angler information
    • T3: Trip information

MRFSS estimates and survey data are currently available through 2003 and do not include revised estimates produced under the MRIP program.

For more information on MRIP Survey Datasets, see MRIP Read Me.doc. MRIP variable formats and descriptions can be found in MRIP_Estimates_Variables.xls (estimate dataset variables) or MRIP_Survey_Variables.xls (survey dataset variables).

Calibrated Data

BASE - The BASE series contains the estimates that were available for years 1981-2017 prior to application of two calibrations for the new Fishing Effort Survey (FES) and design changes made to the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) in 2013.  There are notable changes over time in the BASE series:

  • 1981-2003 original estimates from the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS)
  • 2004-2012 estimates produced with original MRFSS intercept data using MRIP weighted estimation methodology
  • 2013-2017 estimates produced with APAIS intercept data using MRIP weighted estimation methodology

ACAL - The ACAL series contains estimates resulting from application of only the APAIS calibration to data collected before the APAIS design change in 2013.  This calibration applies to years 1981-2012 and covers all modes of fishing.  It accounts for both the 2013 APAIS design change, for all years prior to 2013, as well as the MRIP weighted estimation methodology for all years prior to 2004.  The ACAL series was produced, in part, to illustrate the separate effects of the APAIS and FES calibrations on the estimates and is for comparison purposes only.

FCAL - The FCAL series contains estimates resulting from the full application of both the APAIS and FES calibrations to all data from 1981 through 2017.  Estimates in the FCAL series have been revised to account for both the APAIS design change in 2013 as well as the transition from the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) to the FES as the source of fishing effort information for shore and private boat modes of fishing.  The estimates available in the standard MRIP catch and effort queries are the FCAL series.

Census Data

2000 Update

The effort estimates (numbers of trips) for the Marine Recreational Fishery Statistics Survey are calculated based on a random sample of residents of households in coastal counties. The average number of recreational saltwater fishing trips per household is calculated and this average is expanded by the number of households in the county. The number of households is based on annual projections made by the Survey of Buying Power (Bill Communications). Official Census Bureau counts of households for the 2000 Census have been recently released and where these numbers differed with the projections, the count of households has been updated to reflect the Census Bureau figure. These updates will result in some small changes to the effort, and hence also to the catch, estimates.

2005-2006 Hurricane Katrina Update

On June 7, 2006, the United States Census Bureau published special estimates to assess the impact of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on population and demographic characteristics of Gulf Coast communities. These estimates are not considered part of the Census Bureau's official estimate series. Rather, they were produced using specially designed methodologies to assess the impacts of hurricane events on population sizes of affected counties.

While not part of the official estimate series, these special estimates are the most accurate approximation of hurricane impacts on Gulf Coast populations. As such, they have been incorporated into the procedures used to estimate recreational fishing effort and catch, beginning with wave 5 (September/October), 2005 and continuing through 2006.

Directed Trip Species Options

Primary Target provides an effort estimate for all trips where the angler identified the selected species as their primary target for the trip.

Secondary Target provides an effort estimate for all trips where the angler identified the selected species as their secondary target for the trip.

Caught - Available Catch (Type A) provides an effort estimate for all trips where the selected species was caught and brought back to the dock in a form that could be identified by trained interviewers.

Harvested - Unavailable Catch (Type B1) provides an effort estimate for all trips where the selected species was caught and killed but not available for interviewer identification.

Released - Unavailable Catch (Type B2) provides an effort estimate for all trips where the selected species was caught and released alive.

Selecting multiple of the above species options will provide an effort estimate for all trips with one or more of the above to be true, based on your selection. For example:

Selecting Primary Target, Secondary Target, Released will provide an effort estimate for all trips with one or more of the following:

  1. The angler identified the selected species as their primary target for the trip.
  2. The angler identified the selected species as their secondary target for the trip.
  3. The selected species was caught and released alive (regardless of target species).

Fishing Area

Inland: Inshore saltwater and brackish water bodies such as bays, estuaries, sounds, etc. It does not include inland freshwater areas.

State Territorial Sea: Zone extending three nautical miles from shore for all states except for Puerto Rico and the Gulf coast of Florida where the seaward boundary is 3 marine leagues (approximately 10 statute miles). The state territorial seas do not include inland areas.

State Waters: Combination of inland and state territorial seas.

Federal Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): Area contiguous to the State Territorial Seas of all the United States and its possessions, extending seaward 200 nautical miles measured from the baseline from which the Territorial Sea is measured.

Ocean: Combination of the State Territorial Sea and the EEZ.

Geographical Area—State/Area

Areas are arranged in geographical order by sub-region. For example, the option North Atlantic by State will give you catch for the five states listed after that option (Maine through Connecticut ) on a state-by state basis. The North Atlantic option will give you the catch summed across the five states.

Florida is divided into two regions (east and west) in our survey, as is California (southern and northern). Selection of Florida under either sub-region will give you the total for the whole state. Options for Pacific Coast by Sub-Region (southern California, northern California, Oregon, and Washington) and Atlantic Coast (Maine to East Florida) have been added to this selection group.

Sampling in Puerto Rico began in 2000 (Caribbean sub-region).

LPS is conducted only in Atlantic Coast states from Virginia through Maine. To complement NOAA Fisheries HMS management, these states are divided into two regions: Southern (Virginia through southern New Jersey) and Northern (northern New Jersey through Maine). New Jersey is divided along the border of Atlantic and Ocean counties. Due to the limited scale of recreational LPS fishing, several states are combined into two state groups: Maryland/Delaware, Connecticut/Rhode Island, and New Hampshire/Maine.

HMS Catch Card programs are conducted only in Maryland and North Carolina.

Length Distribution

Length distributions are available for selected species by inch group. Inch groups contain fish measuring X.00 to X.99 inches long. For example, inch group 9 includes fish that are between 9.00 and 9.99 inches. These lengths are fork length


  • Since 2004, NOAA Fisheries has used the new MRIP weighted estimation methodology to produce estimates for Louisiana through Maine.
  • For prior years and other states (Hawaii, Puerto Rico), estimates are based on MRFSS methodology until MRIP estimation is available.

Percent of A+B1 Landings (number of fish) and A+B1 Landings (number-at-length) are provided by length group. Records with missing length group values indicate the numbers of A+B1 landings with no length information.

Percent Standard Error is provided for MRIP based estimates of landings-at-length only.


See "Types of Fishing" below.


Participation estimates are available for three categories based on area of residence:

  • From January-April and November-December, coastal county residence includes anglers from counties within 25 miles of the coast.
  • From May-October, coastal county residence includes anglers from counties within 50 miles of the coast.
  • In North Carolina, the coastal zones are within 50 and 100 miles of the coast, because of the fishing patterns in that state.
  • Non-coastal counties are counties within the state but not in the defined coastal zone.
  • Out-of-State means people from other states or countries who came to the state and fished.

Summing across categories and geographic areas:

  • All participants are additive within a state.
  • Coastal and non-coastal county residents are also additive across states and sub-regions.
  • Out-of-state participants should NOT be added across states or regions.
  • An out-of-state participant could have fished in more than one state that is not his or her state of residence.

Addition of out-of-state participants across states may result in double counting of some individuals.

Percent Standard Error (PSE)

The PSE, or percent standard error, is a measure of precision that expresses the standard error of an estimate as a percentage of the estimate.

  • Precision refers to the dispersion of sample measurements used to calculate an estimate and the resulting variability in the estimate.
  • Large PSEs indicate high variability around estimates and therefore low precision.
  • It is desirable to have small PSEs and more precise estimates.
  • There is a direct relationship between precision and sample size.
  • When we group year, state, wave, or mode estimates, sample size increases and so does precision.
  • Catch estimates for commonly caught species often are more precise than for rare event or pulse fisheries.

Data users should consider the width of confidence intervals surrounding estimates before drawing any far-reaching conclusions from point estimates.

  • A confidence interval is calculated as the estimate minus 1.96 times the standard error (the lower limit) and the estimate plus 1.96 times the standard error (the upper limit).
  • A 95% confidence interval means we are 95% sure that the true value lies between the lower limit and the upper limit.

Percent Standard Error is automatically included with requested information, except for mean lengths.

  • Calculations of mean lengths involve weighting mean lengths by the estimated number of fish in a cell (state/wave/fishing mode/fishing area/species).
  • These calculations are quite complicated and rely on various assumptions.
  • Because of the assumptions, it is better that these calculations be made on a case-by-case basis.
  • Knowing mean lengths is less useful than knowing length distributions and the metric is not widely used.
  • Because of its limited use, we do not expect the absence of the PSE to cause any problems or lead to incorrect conclusions about a fishery.

Sample Coverage

Currently, NOAA Fisheries conducts its recreational fishing statistics program on the Atlantic coast (Maine through east Florida), Gulf coast (Alabama through west Florida), and in Puerto Rico and Hawaii. Data presented in the queries are those from only these surveys. Data from other NOAA Fisheries and state surveys are not included in the queries. We advise caution when comparing catch estimates across an extended time series because of differences in sampling coverage through the years.

  • In the South Atlantic and Gulf sub-regions (North Carolina through Louisiana), party boat catch data have not been collected since 1985, so estimates for these sub-regions only include charter boats in the for-hire sector.
  • Prior to 1998, on the Pacific coast, ocean boat trips and salmon trips were not sampled during certain waves because they were surveyed by state natural resource agencies.
  • West Pacific U.S. territories have not been included in the national survey program since 1981.
  • Hawaii was not surveyed between 1981 and 2002.
  • The U.S. Caribbean was not surveyed between 1981 and 2000.
  • Alaska conducts an annual mail survey in place of the NOAA Fisheries' program.
  • Marine recreational fishing in Texas is monitored by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and has not been surveyed by the NOAA Fisheries' survey program since 1985.

Historically, only about five percent of the annual recreational catch on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is taken during Wave 1 (January/February). Costs to sample these months are very high due to low fishing activity. Therefore, in Wave 1 of 1981 the surveys were not conducted in any region. In 1982, Wave 1 data collection resumed on the Pacific and Gulf coasts and on the Atlantic coast of Florida. With a few exceptions, the recreational statistics program has not collected data in Wave 1 on the Atlantic coast north of Florida since 1980.

Other time periods when the marine recreational statistics program has not been conducted include:

  • November/December (Wave 6) in Maine and New Hampshire: 1987 to present.
  • March/April (Wave 2) in Maine and New Hampshire: 1986 to present.
  • January/February (Wave 1) in Northern California and Oregon: 1994.
  • January/February (Wave 1) in Southern California and Oregon: 1995.
  • November/December (Wave 6) in Oregon: 1994.
  • November/December (Wave 6) in Washington shore mode: 2003.
  • July through December (Waves 4-6) in Oregon shore modes: 2003.
  • All Waves in California, Oregon, and Washington: 1990-1993, 2004-present.
  • All Waves in Washington: 1993-1994.
  • All Waves in Louisiana: 2014-present.

The NOAA Fisheries Beaufort Laboratory conducts the Southeast Region Headboat Survey (SRHS) to provide party (head) boat catch and effort for the Southeast Region (North Carolina through Texas). Data are available from:

Southeast Fisheries Science Center
Beaufort Laboratory
101 Pivers Island Road
Beaufort, NC 28516-9722

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has conducted their own survey of marine recreational fisheries since 1974. Estimates for Texas are available from:

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,
8400 Smith School Road,
Austin, Texas 78744

The Pacific states conduct surveys of salmon fishing, ocean-boat fishing, and California passenger fishing vessels. Estimates for these fisheries are available from:

Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission,
45 SE 82nd Drive, Suite 100,
Gladstone, OR 97027

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducts surveys of recreational fishing in that state.


Common species are available using the pulldown menu. For other species, use the Species Assistance button to the right of the menu.

Summarize By

There are four options for summarizing estimates.

By wave: provides estimates for each two-month reference period.

Annual: provides summary across an entire year.

Cumulative: provides total year-to-date estimate.

Single wave: allows user to select a single two-month reference period.

Type of Catch

Type A catch: fish brought back to the dock in a form that can be identified by trained interviewers.

Type B1 catch: fish used for bait, released dead, or filleted, identification is by individual anglers.

Type B2 catch: fish released alive, identification is by individual anglers.

Total Catch: Type A + B1 + B2

Harvest: Type A + B1

Observed Harvest: Type A

Unobserved Harvest: Type B1

Released: Type B2

LPS catch types are limited to:

  • Kept: any fish retained by the vessel.
  • Alive: fish released from the vessel while still alive.
  • Dead: dead fish discarded at sea.

Types of Fishing (Mode)

North Carolina is the only state to break Shore mode into Beach/Bank mode and Man Made mode.

All Modes by Mode: Provides detailed breakdown of for-hire modes. The for-hire sector sampling varies over time, as outline below. Query users should take note of the following:

  • 1981 - 1985: Undifferentiated Party/Charter mode only. All for-hire boats (charter and head/party boat) were sampled as one category and a single Party/Charter mode estimate was produced.
  • 1986 - 2004: The undifferentiated Party/Charter mode continued in the Northeast states (Maine to Virginia). In the Southeast (North Carolina to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico states), the only for-hire vessels MRIP sampled were charter boats. Beginning in 1986, the Southeast Head Boat Logbook Program sampled party (head) boats. 
  • 2005 - ongoing: Charter boats and party (head) boats are sampled independently by the For-Hire Survey and stratified Angler Intercept Survey; separate charter boat and party (head) boat estimates are produced. Undifferentiated party/charter sampling is no longer performed.

LPS and HMS Catch Card modes are limited to Private and Charter boat modes.

  • Private mode includes vessels with either the HMS Angling category permit or Atlantic Tunas General category permit.
  • Charter mode includes vessels with the HMS Charter/Headboat category permit. 

Vessels targeting large pelagic species without an HMS permit are also included in the dockside intercept survey.


Two-month reference period.

  • Wave 1: January/February
  • Wave 2: March/April
  • Wave 3: May/June
  • Wave 4: July/August
  • Wave 5: September/October
  • Wave 6: November/December

LPS estimates are available by month for sampled months (June – October). These months encompass the majority of LPS fishing along the Mid- and North Atlantic coasts.

Weight Data

USE CAUTION WITH WEIGHT DATA. Weight estimates are minimums and may not reflect the actual total weight landed or harvested.

Weight Estimates Prior to 2004

Prior to 2004, we calculated weight estimates by multiplying the estimated number harvested in a cell (year/wave/state/mode/area/species) by the mean weight of the measured fish in that cell. Sometimes we have an estimate of harvest, but no mean weight because:

  • The harvest is all reported by the anglers (B1), or

  • The interviewers couldn't weigh any fish (fish too big, already gutted and gilled, etc).

If a cell is missing a mean weight, and if we have at least two fish measured in the state (all fishing areas and modes combined),

  • We substitute the mean for the whole state for that wave
  • We need two measured fish to get a variance estimate

After state substitution, if the mean weight is still missing,

  • We use the mean from the whole sub-region for that wave
  • The "two fish rule" still applies

Weight Estimates 2004 to present

As part of the MRIP re-estimation project, we recalculated all estimates of landings by weight (lb or kg) using the same design-based estimation methodology used to recalculate the estimates of catch in numbers of fish.

During the MRIP re-estimation project, we also developed a new method to handle missing weights. The new method uses a mix of hot and cold deck imputation, as well as length-weight modeling to impute or fill in missing length or weight values by species at the individual angler-trip level.

For individual fish records where lengths are present, missing weights are imputed using length-weight modeling of the form Weight = a*Length^b. In most cases, models are fit by species and two-month wave in the current year. Should a model fail to converge, models are fit by species using the most recent 10 years of data.

For intercepted angler-trips with landings but no corresponding length and weight measurements, paired length and weight observations are imputed from complete cases using hot and cold deck imputation. Up to five rounds of imputation are conducted in an attempt to fill in missing values. The rounds begin with imputation cells that correspond to the most detailed MRIP estimation cells but are aggregated to higher levels in subsequent rounds to bring in more length-weight data:

  • Round 1: current year, wave, sub-region, state, mode, area fished, species
  • Round 2: current year, half-year, sub-region, state, mode, species
  • Round 3: current + most recent prior year, wave, sub-region, state, mode, area fished, species
  • Round 4: current + most recent prior year, sub-region, state, mode, species
  • Round 5: current + most recent prior year, sub-region, species

For All Years

If fish weights are STILL missing after all the imputation methods have been applied, we give up and leave a missing weight estimate. At that point,

  • It is up to the user to determine whether to substitute, and
  • What substitution is most appropriate to use (a mean from the preceding and following waves, the whole year, same wave over years, whole Atlantic & Gulf coast, or other model-based approaches).
  • We don't make those decisions because the information needs and sensitivity of the data vary among species.
The phenomenon of missing weights is more widespread with rarely caught species and with large fish (i.e. tunas). The existence and/or extent of missing weights for your query is provided in the column labeled “Landings (no.) without Size Information” in the weight estimates query output. This column provides the number of landed (A+B1) fish that are not included in the weight estimate column (labeled “Harvest (A+B1) Total Weight (lb or kg)”). If the “Landings (no.) without Size Information” column contains a 0 value, then all landed fish are included in the weight estimate.

Year Type

For the MRIP/MRFSS Catch Estimates Comparison Query, we provide estimates at the annual level for three selected year types:

  • Calendar year (January-December).
  • May Fishing Year (May 1-April 30).
  • July Fishing Year (July 1-June 30).

Each range begins in the year selected, and continues into the next year, if appropriate. For example, if you select the following-- From: 2009, To: 2009, and Year Type: July Fishing Year--then estimates would be summarized for July 1, 2009 through May 30, 2010.