Recreational Fishing Surveys
NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program works with state, regional, and federal partners to implement more than 25 recreational data collection programs across the United States.
NOAA Fisheries' Marine Recreational Information Program works with state, regional, and federal partners to develop, implement, and continually improve a national network of recreational fishing surveys. In some cases, these surveys are administered by a NOAA Fisheries Program Office, Regional Office, or Science Center. In other cases, surveys are administered by a state or territorial agency. Our partnership includes more than 25 state and regional data collection programs.
The Marine Recreational Information Program administers four recreational fishing surveys, which are used to estimate recreational catch and effort along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts:
- The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey, Fishing Effort Survey, and For-Hire Survey are used to estimate recreational catch and effort from Maine through Mississippi. The Fishing Effort Survey also estimates shore and private boat effort in Hawaii.
- The specialized Large Pelagics Survey is used to estimate recreational catch and effort for large pelagic or highly migratory species in the Greater Atlantic.
These surveys provide a critical source of consistent catch information for the monitoring and assessment of U.S. fish stocks.
The Marine Recreational Information Program also provides technical guidance and financial support for the data collection priorities identified by its eight Regional Implementation Teams. Priorities range from increasing sampling levels, to reviewing the statistical rigor of state and regional surveys, to collaboratively developing specialized programs that may serve as alternative or supplemental sources of recreational fishing data.
Access Point Angler Intercept Survey
From Maine through Mississippi, the in-person Access Point Angler Intercept Survey is conducted with recreational anglers as they complete their fishing trips. (From Maine through Virginia, this survey also includes an at-sea headboat sampling program.) Field interviewer assignments are drawn from an online database of public fishing access sites, which are clustered by geographic location and site pressure, or the estimated number of anglers expected to fish at a particular site during a particular time. Fishing access sites are crossed with a date-time calendar so that each sampled unit consists of a specific site-day-time combination.
During each APAIS interview, state samplers record the:
- Location, date, and interview time
- Mode of the angler’s trip (e.g., shore, private or rental boat, or for-hire vessel)
- General area where the angler fished (e.g., inland, state territorial sea, or federal Exclusive Economic Zone)
- Species, number, and disposition of the angler’s catch (e.g., observed harvest, reported harvest, or released alive)
- If possible, length and weight of harvested fish
The resulting data are used to estimate private angler and for-hire catch-per-trip, and to account for off-frame fishing effort from private anglers, charter boats, and headboats.
Fishing Effort Survey
From Maine through Mississippi and in Hawaii, the mail Fishing Effort Survey is sent to a sample of residential households in coastal states. The sample is drawn from a list of residential addresses, which are divided into subgroups based on two factors: a household's proximity to the coast, and its match against our database of licensed saltwater anglers.
Because research shows response rates increase when participants are compensated for their time and asked about topics other than fishing, the FES includes a $2 prepaid cash incentive and questions about weather and outdoor activity. The fishing effort section of the questionnaire asks each member of the sampled household to report:
- Number of days fished from shore in state of residence
- Number of days fished from private or rental boat in state of residence
The resulting data are used to estimate private angler effort from shore and private boats.
From Maine through Mississippi, the telephone For-Hire Survey is conducted with a sample of state and federally permitted for-hire vessel representatives. The sample is drawn from an online database of for-hire vessels, including both charter and headboats.
While NOAA Fisheries administers the FHS, state agencies conduct it. During each FHS interview, state samplers ask vessel operators to report vessel-fishing activity for specified one-week reference periods and to recount details from each trip. These details include:
- Number of vessel trips with paying passengers taken that week
- Number of anglers that fished from the vessel on each trip
- Hours, area, and in some states, method fished (e.g., casting, drifting, trolling)
- Species targeted
The resulting data are used to estimate for-hire fishing effort, or the number of angler trips taken from charter boats and headboats.
Large Pelagics Survey
From Maine through Virginia, three specialized surveys—known together as the Large Pelagics Survey—collect catch and effort data for tuna, sharks, billfishes, swordfish, and other offshore recreational species.
- The Large Pelagics Intercept Survey collects catch-per-trip information from private and for-hire vessels as they complete their trips targeting large pelagic fish.
- The Large Pelagics Telephone Survey collects effort information from a sample of for-hire vessels that possess an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Charter/Headboat Permit or indicate to a sampler that they targeted HMS on a recent fishing trip.
- The Large Pelagics Biological Survey collects length and weight data and biological samples from bluefin tuna.
The resulting data are used to estimate private and charter boat catch and effort of large pelagics along the Atlantic coast.
Published in 2018 and updated in 2021, Survey Design and Statistical Methods for Estimation of Recreational Fisheries Catch and Effort describes the technical details of the Marine Recreational Information Program's recreational fishing surveys, as well as the methods the program uses to estimate total recreational catch.
In accordance with NOAA Fisheries' Recreational Fishing Survey and Data Standards, the Marine Recreational Information Program is also transitioning to the publication of annual recreational fishing survey reports. Annual reports will be produced for each of the program's surveys, and will provide an overview of a survey's data collection procedures, sample sizes, response or compliance rates, quality assurance and control measures, and other details. As of May 2022, annual reports are available for the Fishing Effort Survey.
Data users can access Marine Recreational Information Program estimates through the MRIP Query Tool. Estimates from state surveys in Louisiana, Texas, California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska can be accessed through the tool's National Summary Query.
The Recreational Fishing Data Downloads page provides access to public-use datasets, as well as analytical programs that support custom domain analyses.