How We Sample Anglers

To get the most complete, most accurate results, most of our angler surveys collect data on catch rate (what is caught on a per trip basis) and effort (how many fishing trips anglers make) separately. We combine all of this information to produce estimates of total catch. For more on how we estimate total catch, see Estimation Methods.

The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) uses several different surveys, depending on the mode of fishing and the region being surveyed. We might need very different kinds of data for different parts of the country, and even for different fisheries in one region. MRIP sets national standards to make sure the survey and estimation methods stand up to rigorous independent peer review and the statistics are of high enough  quality to ensure the sustainable use of recreational fishing resources. Learn more about the data collection programs for each region below.

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Atlantic and Gulf

On the Atlantic and Gulf coasts—from Maine to Mississippi—the survey program has two parts: onsite, in-person interviews (or “intercepts”) and surveys conducted by either telephone or mail.

In-person intercepts

MRIP estimates catch rates on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts using data collected through dockside interviews of anglers that have completed their fishing trip. The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey is conducted by state and interstate agency employees working as dockside samplers. Samplers work at marinas, boat ramps, and shore fishing sites to interview anglers about their trips and count, weigh, and measure their catch. Field samplers also collect data on large pelagic and highly migratory species, including tunas, billfish, and sharks, using the Large Pelagics Intercept Survey. From that information, gathered over time and in various places, we estimate the average catch rate. 

Telephone interviews and mail surveys

MRIP uses the mail-based Fishing Effort Survey on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to identify and randomly contact fishing households in coastal states. Recipients of the mail survey are asked how many trips they took in the preceding two months, a period known as a “wave.” The For-Hire Survey randomly selects charter and headboat operators to interview, separate from the FES, and the Large Pelagics Telephone Survey contacts captains who hold Highly Migratory Species permits. Charter boat and headboat captains provide information about the number of trips and anglers their boats took over a one-week sampling period. We combine information from all these surveys to estimate the total number of trips.

In 2018, we transitioned to the mail-based FES from the Coastal Household Telephone Survey  to estimate fishing trips for shore and private boat fishing modes. Read about our Effort Survey Improvements to learn more about why we made the change and how the mail survey is more accurate.

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Puerto Rico and Hawaii

Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, estimates for shore and boat fishing, including charter boats, have also been o produced using the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey and the CHTS. MRIP data collection efforts in 2018 have been suspended as the territory rebuilds from Hurricane Maria and data collection options for 2019 are being evaluated. 


In Hawaii, effort data for shore and private boat fishing are collected using the FES. Catch data for shore and private boat fishing are collected using an adaptation of the  MRFSS Access Point Angler Intercept Survey known as the Hawaii Marine Recreational Information Survey (HMRFS).. Charter boats are required to report their catch and effort through a state-managed logbook/trip reporting system.

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The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission established the Pacific Coast Recreational Fisheries Information Network, or Pacific RecFIN, to integrate federal and state recreational fisheries data. As part of RecFIN, Washington, Oregon, and California each operate angler survey programs that include intercept, phone, and mail components.

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Alaska, Texas, and Louisiana


The Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducts an annual sport fishing mail survey to gather information about private boat and shore fishing. It also has a census logbook program for its for-hire fisheries.


The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has conducted its own survey of marine recreational fisheries since 1974.


The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries developed a survey program known as LA Creel that uses intercepts and weekly phone and email surveys to produce catch and effort estimates. LA Creel completed the MRIP certification process in December 2017.

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More Information

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