Types of Recreational Fishing Surveys
The Marine Recreational Information Program uses a suite of surveys to collect information from anglers and for-hire operators.
The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) uses a suite of surveys to collect information about recreational fishing catch and effort. Surveys that are directly funded by MRIP include:
- The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS).
- The Fishing Effort Survey (FES).
- The For-Hire Survey (FHS).
- The Large Pelagics Survey (LPS).
The APAIS, FES, and FHS collect complementary sets of data that contribute to our general catch and effort estimates. The LPS is a specialized suite of surveys that produces catch and effort estimates for large pelagic and highly migratory species.
These surveys are administered on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and in Hawaii. When combined with specialized and supplemental surveys, our national network of data collection programs spans the United States and its territories.
Access Point Angler Intercept Survey
The Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS) is an in-person intercept survey that collects information from anglers as they complete their fishing trips. It’s conducted at marinas, boat ramps, beaches, fishing piers, and other publicly accessible fishing sites. Trained samplers interview anglers and collect information about:
- The length, weight, and species of fish caught.
- The number and species of fish released.
- Information about the fishing trip, including the length and mode (i.e., shore, private boat, charter boat, or headboat).
Sampling sites, dates, and times are selected in proportion to the amount of fishing activity expected to occur at a particular site during a particular time of day. Ensuring more active sites are sampled more often increases sampling efficiency—allowing our samplers to spend more time interviewing anglers at high-activity sites and less time idle at low-activity sites—and ensures our overall sample is representative of actual fishing activity. In 2019, samplers from Maine through Georgia received training from the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program (ACCSP) and began using tablets to record and send angler intercept data.
Samples are drawn during two-month sampling periods known as “waves.” Preliminary estimates of average catch per angler trip are produced for each wave; final estimates are generated each year.
The APAIS is administered on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Mississippi and in Hawaii. It has also been administered in Puerto Rico, but our data collection efforts have been suspended in this region as the territory rebuilds following Hurricane Maria.
- APAIS Procedures Manual (PDF, 110 pages)
To learn more, visit Access Point Angler Intercept Survey At-a-Glance.
Fishing Effort Survey
The Fishing Effort Survey (FES) is a mail survey that collects information from households in Hawaii and on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It replaced the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) in 2018, after our work to improve the way we understand and estimate fishing effort found a mail effort survey was superior to the random-digit dialing of residential households used by the CHTS.
The FES samples households from a national database of mailing addresses, which is supplemented with information from state-based recreational fishing license and registration programs. Because research indicates that both anglers and non-anglers are more likely to respond to a survey that includes questions about topics other than fishing, the FES is designed as a weather and outdoor activity survey. This helps us improve the number of responses we receive while reducing the risk of nonresponse bias. In 2018, we began testing an online reporting option, piloting a “push to web” design that encourages participants to respond to the FES through a computer or mobile device.
Data are collected at the end of two-month sampling periods known as “waves.” Preliminary estimates of the number of shore and private boat recreational fishing trips taken by anglers who live in the covered coastal states are produced for each wave; final estimates are generated each year.
From January through December (Waves 1 – 6), the FES is administered in North Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Hawaii. All other states—with the exception of Maine—are sampled from March through December (Waves 2 – 6); Maine is sampled from May through October (Waves 3 – 5). The FES has been administered in Puerto Rico, but our data collection efforts have been suspended in this region as the territory rebuilds following Hurricane Maria.
- FES Statement of Work (PDF, 19 pages)
- FES Sample Survey (PDF, 2 pages)
- FES Stakeholder Guide (PDF, 4 pages)
- FES Annual Report
The For-Hire Survey (FHS) is a telephone survey that collects information from for-hire operators to estimate fishing effort from the for-hire sector. The FHS samples for-hire operators from a list of known for-hire vessel contacts. It asks operators to report vessel-fishing activity during a one-week reference period and to recount details from each trip. This information includes:
- The number of anglers who fished from the boat.
- The hours spent fishing, method of fishing, and area fished.
- The species targeted.
Data are collected on a weekly basis during two-month sampling periods known as “waves,” and are paired with data collected through charter and headboat APAIS intercepts to estimate total for-hire catch.
The FHS is administered on the Atlantic coast from Maine through Florida and on the Gulf coast in Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi. From Maine to North Carolina, the FHS is supplemented with effort data collected through the Vessel Trip Reporting (VTR) program.
- FHS Statement of Work (PDF, 50 pages)
- FHS Procedures Manual (PDF, 13 pages)
- FHS Sample Logsheet and Questionnaire (PDF, 7 pages)
Large Pelagics Survey
From Maine to Virginia, the Large Pelagics Survey (LPS) collects catch and effort data for tuna, sharks, billfishes, swordfish, and other offshore recreational species. Because trips targeting such highly valued species are relatively rare and require specific fishing methods, a specialized survey is needed to produce precise catch estimates to meet science and management needs.
The LPS consists of three surveys that are administered from June through October: the Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS), the Large Pelagics Telephone Survey (LPTS), and the Large Pelagics Biological Survey (LPBS). Estimates derived from the LPS are produced each month.
- The Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS) is a dockside intercept survey that collects information from anglers and for-hire operators returning from trips targeting large pelagic fish. Rather than intercepting individual anglers, the LPIS intercepts individual vessel representatives. It measures the number of fish that were caught, landed, released, and sold; the size of the fish that were landed; the number of anglers who fished; the length and location of their fishing trip; the fishing methods used; and the species targeted.
- The Large Pelagics Telephone Survey (LPTS) is a telephone survey that collects information from anglers and for-hire operators who hold Highly Migratory Species permits. It measures fishing effort: the number of trips taken for large pelagic fish.
- The Large Pelagics Biological Survey (LPBS) is a dockside intercept survey that collects biological information from bluefin tuna and other large pelagic fish. (To improve sampling efficiency, the LPBS also collects information during tournaments that target large pelagics.) In addition to length and weight data, samplers collect otoliths, muscle tissue, first dorsal spines, and gonads from high-priority species. Data from the LPBS do not contribute to our estimates of total recreational catch. Instead, samples are processed, stored, and used by NOAA’s Southeast Fisheries Science Center to assess stock age and growth rates and to garner additional information about these species’ life histories.
- LPIS and LPBS Statement of Work (PDF, 63 pages)
- LPTS Statement of Work (PDF, 50 pages)
- LPIS Procedures Manual (PDF, 89 pages)
- LPIS Sample Intercept Form (PDF, 2 pages)
- LPTS Sample Questionnaires and Log Sheet (PDF, 25 pages)
In some states and regions, alternative general surveys have replaced MRIP general surveys. In others, supplemental and specialized surveys are used alongside MRIP general surveys to collect data for select fisheries or during select fishing seasons. Pairing our general surveys—which provide annual catch estimates for all species encountered—with specialized surveys allows us to develop more comprehensive recreational fisheries statistics.
- From Maine to North Carolina, the Vessel Trip Reporting program supplements the FHS. From North Carolina to Florida, the Southeast Region Headboat Survey is used to monitor recreational headboat catch.
- In Florida, the Gulf Reef Fish Survey (GRFS) is used to monitor private boat fishing for red snapper and nine other reef fish species.
- In Alabama and Mississippi, surveys known as Snapper Check and Tails n’ Scales, respectively, are used to monitor charter and private boat fishing for red snapper.
- In Louisiana, LA Creel is a general survey that serves as a certified alternative to the APAIS and FES.
- On the Pacific Coast, marine recreational fishing is monitored by the Pacific Coast Recreational Fisheries Information Network (Pacific RecFIN). Pacific RecFIN surveys include the Ocean Sampling Program and Puget Sound Sampling Program, administered in Washington; the Ocean Recreational Boat Survey and Shore and Estuary Boat Survey, administered in Oregon; and the California Recreational Fishing Surveys.