Marine Recreational Information Program: Types of Surveys

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Determining Catch: the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey

On the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey is conducted at public marine fishing access points (boat ramps, piers, beaches, jetties, bridges, marinas, etc.) to collect individual catch data and information including:

  • Species caught.
  • Total number of each species caught.
  • Length and weight measurements of individual fishes.
  • Angler-specific fishing trip information.
  • Angler-specific fishing behavior.

Trained field staff conduct the interviews in person. A proportional, random process is used to choose sites and dates for data collection—the most active sites will be sampled most often. The sampling schedule is independently determined by fishing mode (shore, charter boat, or private or rental boat). Target sample sizes are based on historic distributions of fishing trips (effort) and available funds.

The Marine Recreational Information Program uses data from these angler interviews to estimate catch per trip (catch rate) for each type of fish encountered, through either the interviewer’s direct observation or the angler’s reporting. MRIP also uses the intercept survey to adjust for activity that may not otherwise be accounted for. For example, information from residents of non-coastal states  is not collected from the Fishing Effort Survey.

APAIS Survey Documents

For more information, download the survey documents:

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Measuring Effort: Fishing Effort Survey

On the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the Fishing Effort Survey collects fishing effort data from shore and private boat anglers. The mail-based survey samples from a national database of addresses maintained by the U.S. Postal Service, supplemented by information from state-based recreational fishing license and registration systems. Consequently, the mail survey has the ability to reach all households in each coastal state, which improves our potential of reaching anglers.  The FES isn’t just a fishing survey. It was designed as a “Weather and Outdoor Activity Survey” because it’s important to get information from fishermen and non-fishermen alike. We found that both groups were more likely to answer and return a more general survey that includes questions about topics other than fishing. This is important because maximizing the number of responses we get will minimize the risk of nonresponse bias.  Data collection occurs at the end of each two-month sample period (or “wave”). We have followed the schedule shown below, since we began collecting effort data in 1979, although not all states or commonwealths have been surveyed in all years (see Fishing Survey Coverage and Program Evolution for details).

Fishing Effort Survey Data Collection Schedule.
Region Schedule
Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Hawaii, Puerto Rico


(waves 1-6)

Atlantic coast north of Florida (excluding Maine and New Hampshire)


(waves 2-6)

Maine, New Hampshire


(waves 3-5)

Pacific coast Survey not conducted
Louisiana, Texas, Alaska Survey not conducted


Coastal Household Telephone Survey

The Coastal Household Telephone Survey was used to collect data on the number of fishing trips taken by shore and private boat anglers on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from 1979 through the end of 2017. The CHTS used a computer-assisted, random-digit dialing approach to contact full-time residential households in coastal states. Within each state, calls were divided among coastal counties in proportion to household populations. The survey excluded institutional housing, businesses, wireless phones, and pay phones. Households were screened to make sure at least one household member fished recreationally during the previous two months.Each active angler was asked how many saltwater fishing trips they had taken during the wave, as well as details about each trip.

MRIP used data from the CHTS to estimate the average number of trips per household for each coastal county. We expanded these estimates by the county household population to estimate total trips. We added the county estimates together, then expanded those sums by adjustment factors from the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey to produce state-level effort estimates. All estimates were computed by fishing mode, then all mode-level estimates were aggregated to get the total statewide estimates.

CHTS Survey Documents

For more information about the CHTS, please download the survey documents below.

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Capturing Charter Boat Activity: For-Hire Survey

The For-Hire Survey (FHS) was developed to fill gaps in coverage of charter and headboat angler effort on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The CHTS does not capture the majority of for-hire angling effort in most states because most anglers who take trips on charter boats and headboats (also called party boats) do not live in coastal counties. The FHS was implemented for Gulf Coast states in 2000 (charter boats only), and all Atlantic Coast states from Maine through Georgia in 2005. It overlaps other charter and headboat monitoring programs, including the Northeast (Maine–Virginia) Vessel Trip Reporting Program (VTR), the Southeast Region Headboat Survey (SRHS), various state logbook programs, and the ongoing CHTS.

The FHS gathers data on individual vessels, not households. It sampling frame is built from a comprehensive directory of for-hire boats for all states, from Maine through Mississippi. (This directory consists of a vessel identifier—either a name or registration number—along with contact information and various accessory information, such as eligibility and activity.) Sampling is stratified by vessel type (charter and headboat), state, and week, within each two-month sampling wave. In Florida and North Carolina, the state may be subdivided into two or more regions.

FHS data are collected each week. When a vessel is chosen for surveying, a notice is mailed to its representative before the interview. (For the Atlantic Coast, respondents are given additional ways to report: an interactive website, a fax number, and a phone contact they can call to begin an interview.)

During the interview itself, the respondent is asked to report vessel fishing activity for the prior week, and then to describe each for-hire fishing trip. Information gathered for each trip includes area fished, number of anglers who fished, hours of actual fishing activity, method of fishing, and target species, if any. Effort estimates are produced from the average number of angler trips per vessel-type per week and the number of vessels per vessel-type in the sampling frame. These raw estimates are adjusted, using information from the Access-Point Angler Intercept Survey, for active for-hire fishing boats that are not in the sample frame (new to fleet, no contact information known, etc.).

Vessel Trip Report Data

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center collects data from NOAA Fisheries–permitted vessels from Maine through Virginia through VTRs. For all federally permitted charter boats and headboats, the total trips reported in the VTRs are used to produce an unadjusted number of angler trips. These boats are treated as a separate “VTR boats” stratum within each for-hire boat mode. All FHS data obtained for those vessels are removed, and FHS estimates of the numbers of angler trips on non-VTR boats are re-run for each wave using the remaining FHS data. The resulting FHS estimates represent a second “non-VTR boats” stratum for each mode.

FHS Survey Documents

For more information about the FHS, please download the survey documents below.

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Large Pelagics Survey

On the Atlantic Coast from Maine to Virginia, NOAA Fisheries uses the Large Pelagics Survey (LPS) to measure the total recreational catch of large pelagic fish, including tuna, billfish, and sharks. The LPS has three parts, each of which gathers the specific pieces of data needed to form the complete picture of recreational fishing activity.

The Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS) consists of dockside interviews with randomly selected anglers and for-hire captains returning from fishing trips targeting large pelagics. It measures average catch per trip, average size of kept fish, and number of fish released alive. Interviewers also ask how many people fished, how long they fished for, what they were targeting, what fishing method they used, and other trip details.

The Large Pelagics Telephone Survey (LPTS) consists of telephone interviews with randomly selected recreational anglers and for-hire captains who hold Highly Migratory Species permits. It measures fishing effort—the total number of trips taken for large pelagic species during a given period of time.

The Large Pelagics Biological Survey gathers other biological information This supplemental dockside survey is used primarily for recreational bluefin tuna, targeting both private and for-hire boats. The survey collects length, weight, and body part samples that scientists use to study fish populations and stock assessments.

MRIP is improving the LPS components to make sure they are free from potential sources of error or bias, and that our estimates are as accurate as they can possibly be. For the LPS, areas we're looking into include characteristics of large pelagic trips that return to private access sites, new ways to more accurately represent tournament activity, and improvements to our survey design to better match our catch estimation methods.

LPS Survey Documents

For more information about the LPIS and LPTS, download the survey documents below.

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Highly Migratory Species

NOAA Fisheries has a rule that requires mandatory reporting of all recreationally landed billfish, swordfish, bluefin tuna, and some sharks. In all but two states, these species are reported by Highly Migratory Species anglers and captains either online or by phone.

Maryland and North Carolina, instead, use recreational catch card census programs with funding and technical support from NOAA Fisheries. Billfish, swordfish, bluefin tuna, and some sharks landed recreationally in these states must have landings tags attached before being taken from the vessel (or the water, for trailered vessels). Captains or operators of permitted vessels are required to complete a catch card for each billfish, swordfish, bluefin tuna, or shark (for some types of shark) landed in exchange for a tag. Catch cards are available at designated reporting stations in bait and tackle shops, marinas, and other places where these species are landed. Data collected from HMS catch card census programs are used to track in-season landings, and monitor and manage these highly valued recreational fisheries.

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More Information

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