Recreational Fishing Data Glossary
The terms used in the Marine Recreational Information Program's query tool are defined below.
The BASE series contains estimates that were available between 1981 and 2017, before the application of two calibrations to support the modified Access Point Angler Intercept Survey and new Fishing Effort Survey.
- BASE estimates from 1981 to 2003 were derived from the Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS).
- BASE estimates from 2004 to 2012 were derived from MRFSS intercept data, but produced using the Marine Recreational Information Program’s weighted estimation methodology.
- BASE estimates from 2013 to 2017 were derived from APAIS data and produced using MRIP’s weighted estimation methodology.
The ACAL series contains estimates resulting from the application of the APAIS calibration to data collected before the 2013 APAIS design change. This calibration applies to estimates between 1981 and 2012, and accounts for the 2013 design change (for all years prior to 2013) and the MRIP weighted estimation methodology (for all years prior to 2004). The ACAL series was produced, in part, to illustrate the effects of the APAIS and FES calibrations on estimates, and is for comparison purposes only.
The FCAL series contains estimates resulting from the full application of both calibrations to data collected between 1981 and 2017. These calibrations account for the APAIS design change and the transition from the Coastal Household Telephone Survey to the FES. These estimates are the estimates that are available in standard catch and effort queries.
Data users should consider the confidence intervals that surround point estimates before drawing conclusions about these estimates. The dotted lines that appear above and below point estimates in the graph outputs of the MRIP Query Tool illustrate a 95% confidence interval, and encompass the range of values within which we are 95% sure the actual population value is located. In other words, if our surveys were conducted over and over again, 95% of the results would fall within this range. Confidence intervals are 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).
Directed Trip Species Options
- Primary Target: Provides an effort estimate for all trips on which an angler identified the select species as their primary target.
- Secondary Target: Provides an effort estimate for all trips on which an angler identified the select species as their secondary target.
- Caught/Available Catch (Type A): Provides an effort estimate for all trips on which the select species was caught and brought back to the dock in a form that could be identified by a sampler.
- Harvested/Unavailable Catch (Type B1): Provides an effort estimate for all trips on which the select species was caught and killed but not available for identification by a sampler.
- Released/Unavailable Catch (Type B2): Provides an effort estimate for all trips on which the select species was caught and released alive.
Selecting more than one of these options will provide an effort estimate for all trips on which one or more of your selections was true. For example, selecting Primary Target, Secondary Target, and Released will provide an effort estimate for all trips on which an angler identified the select species as their primary or secondary target on the trip, and/or the select species was caught and released alive.
- Inland: Inshore bodies of saltwater or brackish water (e.g., bays, estuaries, or sounds). Does not include inland freshwater areas.
- State Territorial Sea: An area extending three nautical miles from shore in all states and territories except for Puerto Rico and the Gulf coast of Florida, where the seaward state-federal boundary measures three leagues (about 10 miles). Does not include inland areas.
- State Waters: Both inland waters and state territorial seas.
- Federal Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ): An area contiguous to all state territorial seas, extending seaward 200 nautical miles from the baseline from which the state territorial sea is measured.
- Ocean: Both state territorial seas and the EEZ.
Geographical areas are arranged in geographic order by sub-region. These sub-regions include:
- North Atlantic: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut
- Mid-Atlantic: New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia
- South Atlantic: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and East Florida
- Gulf of Mexico: West Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana (1981-2013)
- Pacific: California, Oregon, and Washington
- North and Mid-Atlantic
- Atlantic Coast
- Atlantic and Gulf Coast
- Pacific Coast
- Caribbean: Puerto Rico (2000-2017)
Estimates are available for an entire sub-region or for states within a sub-region. For example, selecting “North Atlantic” will produce estimates summed across the five states within that sub-region. Selecting “North Atlantic by State” will produce the sub-region’s estimates on a state-by-state basis.
Within the MRIP Query Tool, both Florida and California are divided into two regions: East and West Florida, and Southern and Northern California. Selecting “Florida” or “California” will produce estimates for the whole state.
The Large Pelagics Survey is conducted on the Atlantic coast from Virginia through Maine. To complement NOAA Fisheries’ Highly Migratory Species management, these states are divided into two regions: Northern, which stretches from Maine through northern New Jersey, and Southern, which stretches from southern New Jersey to Virginia. (New Jersey is divided along the border of Atlantic and Ocean counties.) Due to the limited scale of recreational fishing for large pelagic fish, several states are further combined into two-state groups: Maryland and Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island, and New Hampshire and Maine.
HMS Catch Card programs operate in Maryland and North Carolina.
Distributions of fork or centerline lengths are available for select species by inch or centimeter group. Inch groups contain fish measuring X.00 to X.99 inches long. For example, inch group nine includes fish between 9.00 and 9.99 inches long.
Access Point Angler Intercept Survey and Fishing Effort Survey calibrations have been applied to length distribution estimates from Maine through Mississippi (1981-2017) and in Louisiana (1981-2013). Estimates from Hawaii (all years) and Puerto Rico (prior to 2014) are based on Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey methodology.
“Percent of Fish” and “Landings” (or number-at-length) are provided by length group. Records with missing length group values indicate the number of landed (Type A+B1) fish with no length information. Percent standard error is only provided for landings (or number-at-length) estimates.
Participation estimates are divided into three categories, based on an angler’s area of residence: coastal, non-coastal, and out-of-state.
- Coastal designations are based on historical fishing activity, and vary throughout the calendar year. Due to their small geographic areas, all counties in Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Delaware are considered coastal. All Florida counties are considered coastal due to the relatively high rate of fishing throughout the state.
- Non-coastal describes anglers from counties outside of a state’s defined coastal zone.
- Out-of-state, also known as nonresident anglers, describes anglers from other states or countries who came to the state and fished.
When summing participants across categories and geographic areas, it is important to note:
- All participants within a single state can be added together.
- Coastal and non-coastal anglers across states and sub-regions can be added together.
- Out-of-state anglers should not be added across states or sub-regions. Because an out-of-state angler could have fished in more than one state that is not their state of residence, the addition of out-of-state anglers across states or sub-regions may result in the double counting of some individuals.
Due to changes in survey coverage and design, it is no longer possible to derive meaningful participation estimates from our marine recreational fishing surveys. Instead, NOAA Fisheries will use the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) to obtain estimates of the number of recreational saltwater anglers. Until these estimates are available at the state level—expected to occur in 2023— 2018 participation estimates are the most reliable participation estimates we have.
Percent Standard Error (PSE)
Percent standard error, or PSE, is a measure of precision that expresses the standard error of an estimate as a percentage of that estimate. Precision refers to the variability that results from the dispersion of the sample measurements used to calculate an estimate.
Large PSEs indicate low precision. Small PSEs indicate higher precision, and are therefore more desirable. In accordance with guidelines from the Office of Management and Budget—which state federal agencies should identify their own criteria for determining when errors are too large for an estimate to be publicly released—the MRIP Query Tool presents a warning when a PSE exceeds 30%. Once our Recreational Fishing Survey and Data Standards are fully implemented, the MRIP Query Tool will not include an estimate when the PSE exceeds 50%.
Generally speaking, precision improves as sample sizes increase. When we group year, state, wave, or mode estimates, for example, our sample size expands and the precision of our estimates improves. Catch estimates for commonly caught species are often more precise than catch estimates for rare-event or pulse fisheries.
Percent standard error is automatically included with all requested information, with the exception of mean lengths and weights for recreational catch in Hawaii.
Today, NOAA Fisheries conducts its recreational fisheries statistics program on the Atlantic coast from Maine through Florida; the Gulf coast from Florida through Mississippi; and in Hawaii. With the exception of the National Summary Query, data collected from other state or federal surveys, including those certified and funded by the Marine Recreational Information Program, are not included in the MRIP Query Tool.
Generally speaking, estimates from the Atlantic and Gulf coasts may be compared across extended periods of time, because calibration methodologies have been applied to account for changes in survey design and sample coverage over the years. In addition, estimates from Alaska may be compared across their time series (1996-Present), because the design of the state data collection program has not changed significantly since 1996. Estimates from Texas may be compared across their time series (1983-Present) for the same reason. However, we advise caution in using the National Summary Query to make such long-term comparisons for estimates in Louisiana, California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii.
Common species are arranged in alphabetical order in the MRIP Query Tool’s “Species” dropdown menu. Less common species are not listed, but can be found by following these steps:
- Click the button labeled Other Species.
- Enter the species name in the appropriate field and click the button labeled Search.
- Select the correct result from the Common Name(s) Returned dropdown menu and click the button labeled Return.
- This species will now be available in the Species dropdown menu for future queries.
- Annual: Provides estimates for each year during a select period of time.
- Wave: Provides estimates for each two-month sampling period during a select period of time.
- Cumulative: Provides cumulative estimates from a select year through a select wave.
- Single Wave: Provides estimates for a select wave during a select period of time.
Type of Catch
- Harvest Based on Observed Harvest, or Type A: Fish that are caught and brought back to the dock in a form that can be identified by samplers.
- Harvest Based on Reported Harvest, or Type B1: Fish that are caught, released dead, used for bait, or filleted, and are identified by individual anglers. This catch type is also called unobserved harvest.
- Released Alive, or Type B2: Fish that are released alive and identified by individual anglers.
- Harvest: Type A + B1.
- Total Catch: Type A + B1 + B2.
Large Pelagics Survey catch types include kept, or fish retained by the vessel; alive, or fish released alive; and dead, or dead fish discarded at sea.
Type of Fishing (Mode)
Estimates can be divided into five categories, based on an angler’s fishing mode:
- Private or Rental Boat
- Headboat a.k.a. Party Boat
- Charter Boat
- All for-hire modes combined, which includes headboat and charter boat.
Vessel size, inspection requirements, fee structure, and angler experience are all factors that may be used to distinguish charter boats from headboats. However, within the context of recreational fishing data collection, anticipated fishing activity is the most important factor that separates the two vessel types. Grouping vessels based on patterns in, and levels of, fishing effort—and sampling the catch of the two groups differently—reduces the potential for bias and improves the precision of catch and effort estimates. The Marine Recreational Information Program defines charter boats and headboats as follows:
- Charter boats are vessels that take a group of anglers—usually six or fewer—on a fishing trip with a licensed captain and crew. The anglers hire, or “charter,” the vessel, and pay a fee for the captain’s services. Charter boats engage in a full range of fishing techniques, including drift fishing, trolling, and bottom fishing. Charter boat catch is sampled at public fishing access sites through the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey and Large Pelagics Intercept Survey.
- Headboats are vessels that take multiple individual and/or small groups of anglers on a fishing trip with a licensed captain and crew. Headboats are generally larger than charter boats, and almost always take more than six anglers on a given trip. Headboat catch is sampled at sea through the APAIS.
Sampling of the for-hire sector has varied over time.
- From 1981 through 1985, all for-hire boats were sampled as one category, called the party/charter mode.
- From 1986 through 2004, all for-hire boats in the North and Mid-Atlantic (from Maine through Virginia) continued to be sampled as one undifferentiated party/charter mode. In the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, the only for-hire vessels the Marine Recreational Information Program sampled were charter boats. (Party (head) boats were, and continue to be, sampled by the Southeast Fisheries Science Center’s Southeast Region Headboat Survey.)
- In 2005, charter boats and party (head) boats began to be sampled by the For-Hire Survey and stratified Access Point Angler Intercept Survey. Separate charter boat and party (head) boat estimates are produced, and undifferentiated party/charter sampling is no longer performed.
Large Pelagics Survey and HMS Catch Card estimates are limited to private and charter boat modes. The private boat mode includes vessels with an HMS Angling or Atlantic Tunas General permit. The charter boat mode includes vessels with an HMS Charter/Headboat permit.
In North Carolina, shore mode is further divided into Beach/Bank mode and Man-Made mode.
Two-month sampling periods.
- Wave 1: January-February
- Wave 2: March-April
- Wave 3: May-June
- Wave 4: July-August
- Wave 5: September-October
- Wave 6: November-December
Preliminary microdata and estimates from our general surveys, which include the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, Fishing Effort Survey, and For-Hire Survey, are published approximately 45 days after the end of each wave (April 15, June 15, August 15, October 15, December 15, and February 15). Once the agency’s Recreational Fishing Survey and Data Standards are fully implemented, we will no longer publish wave-level estimates. Instead, we will publish cumulative estimates every two months, beginning with the first survey administration of the survey year. Data users who choose to create wave-level estimates may do so using the microdata and custom domain analysis programs available on the Recreational Fishing Data Downloads page.
In 2013, the Marine Recreational Information Program recalculated all estimates of landings by weight (lb and kg) using the same design-based estimation methodology used to recalculate all estimates of catch by numbers of fish. We also developed a new method to handle missing weights. This method uses a mix of hot and cold deck imputation and length-weight modeling to impute, or fill in, missing length and weight values by species at the individual angler trip level.
For individual fish records where lengths are present but weights are missing, 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 decade of data.
For intercepted angler trips with landings where both length and weight measurements are missing, 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. These 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.
If fish weights are still missing after each imputation method has been applied, the weight data will remain missing, and the resulting weight estimates should be considered minimums. At this point, it is up to the data user to determine whether to impute and what imputation approach is most appropriate for these missing data points; we do not make these decisions, because information needs and data sensitivity vary among species.
Missing weights are more common with large fish (which may be too large for a weight measurement to take place) and rare-event species. The existence and/or extent of missing weights for a weight estimates query will be provided in the column labeled “Landings (no.) without Size Information.” This column contains the number of landed (Type A+B1) fish that are not included in the weight estimate.
The Catch Data: MRFSS/MRIP Comparisons Query provides estimates at the annual level for three year types:
- Calendar Year: Jan. 1 – Dec. 31
- May Fishing Year: May 1 – April 30
- July Fishing Year: July 1 – June 30
Each range begins in the Earliest Year selected in the “From” field. For example, if a user selects From: 2009, To: 2009, and Year Type: July Fishing Year, the Query Tool would return estimates for July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010.