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. APAIS is also used 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 and in Hawaii, 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 to Mississippi and in Hawaii, we administer a household mail survey called the Fishing Effort Survey. The FES uses the Weather and Outdoor Activity Survey instrument, which collects both fishing and non-fishing information. The FES collects recreational fishing trip information for each resident of a responding household. To sample, we use a U.S. Postal Service list of residential addresses matched to the National Saltwater Angler Registry, which is a database of licensed anglers. This creates a sampling frame of licensed and unlicensed households, which are sampled at different rates.
The FES collects recreational trip information for specified 2-month periods, as well as over the course of the previous year:
- 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.
Additional For-Hire Data Collection Programs
From Maine to Virginia, for-hire vessels that possess an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Charter/Headboat Permit—or indicate to a state sampler that they have targeted HMS on a recent fishing trip—are required to participate in the Large Pelagics Telephone Survey, conducted as an “add-on” to the For-Hire Survey. Federally permitted for-hire vessels may also be required to report catch, effort, and economic information through additional data collection programs.
- In the Greater Atlantic, electronic vessel trip reports supplement the For-Hire Survey: While the vessels that must submit eVTRs are still part of the For-Hire Survey sample frame, they are not called to participate. Data collected through these eVTRs are supplemental to MRIP data collected through the For-Hire Survey to estimate for-hire fishing effort. Therefore, MRIP does not produce estimates using this data.
- In the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, the Southeast For-Hire Integrated Electronic Reporting (SEFHIER) Program and Southeast Region Headboat Survey are conducted alongside the For-Hire Survey. The Southeast Region Headboat Survey collects mandatory catch and effort data from federally permitted headboats from North Carloina to Texas. All federally permitted for-hire vessels with South Atlantic permits are required to participate in SEFHIER, which collects mandatory catch, effort, and economic data, regardless of fishing location. These programs are supplemental to MRIP data collected through the For-Hire Survey. Therefore, MRIP does not produce estimates using this data.
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.