Evening fishing in the Pacific Islands.

Recreational Fishing Data

Producing the Estimates

Transparency is one of our core values, achieved through open access to our products, tools, and processes. This section provides a detailed look at the methods we use to count angler catch, why we use them, and how they work together to produce estimates of total recreational catch.

Introduction to Survey Statistics

By sampling a subset of a population—in this case fishermen and fisheries—we are able to use statistics to understand the characteristics of the whole population. Sampling and estimation can be extremely complex. However, we experience results from sampling in our everyday lives; for example, political polling, health statistics, and television ratings.

Learn more about survey statistics

Estimating Total Recreational Catch

Generally speaking, to estimate total recreational catch, we need to estimate both the catch per angler trip (catch rate) and the number of angler trips (effort).

Catch Rate

Catch rate is the estimated average catch per angler trip. An angler trip is an individual fishing trip taken by a single angler; it can be for any amount of time, whether it is half an hour or an entire day. Catch rates are estimated using data about catch from interviews of fishermen as they complete fishing trips. From these interviews, we can estimate (per angler trip):

  • What species are being caught.
  • How many fish are being caught.
  • How many fish are kept.
  • How many fish are discarded and the condition of the discarded fish.
  • Size and weight of fish caught.

Fishing Effort

Fishing effort refers to the estimated number of angler fishing trips taken. Currently, fishing effort is estimated by conducting telephone and mail surveys of coastal households and for-hire boat captains, as well as on-site survey methods in some regions. From these interviews, we can estimate:

  • How many people are fishing.
  • Where people are fishing.
  • How often people go fishing.

State and regional partners use a system of surveys to gather the information needed to generate these estimates. Once our scientists have this data, they use two methods of estimation.

Learn more about estimation methods