How We Sample Anglers

Most current angler surveys separately sample anglers for catch rate and effort information in order to ensure the most complete and accurate results possible.  All gathered information is combined to produce estimates of total catch. For more on how we estimate total catch, see Estimation Methods.  

In practice, MRIP uses several different surveys depending on the mode of fishing or region.  

How We Count Your Catch

In this video, you will hear directly from scientists, samplers and fishermen themselves about the changes made, how they're working in the field, and why they matter to the people whose lives and livelihoods are connected to sustainable recreational fishing.

Atlantic and Gulf

On the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the survey program is made up of two parts:

  1. In-Person Intercepts – MRIP uses in-person surveys of anglers who have completed their fishing trip to generate estimates of angler catch rate. On the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, NOAA Fisheries contractors and state agency employees work together, serving as in-field samplers to conduct angler surveys through the Access Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS). For large pelagic and highly migratory species, the Large Pelagics Intercept Survey (LPIS) also interviews anglers at the dock. Samplers may work at marinas, boat ramps, and shore fishing sites to interview anglers about their trips and count, weigh, and measure their catch. From that information, gathered over time and in various locations, the average catch rate is estimated.  

  2. Telephone Interviews – Although specific methods vary from region to region, NOAA Fisheries generally uses telephone surveys to either generate effort estimates or validate other surveys. On the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, MRIP currently uses the Coastal Household Telephone Survey (CHTS) to identify and randomly contact fishing households in coastal communities through a practice known as “random digit dialing.” The For-Hire Survey (FHS) randomly selects charter and headboat operators to interview as well, separate from the CHTS, and the Large Pelagics Telephone Survey (LPTS) contacts captains who hold Highly Migratory Species permits. When an individual angler is contacted and agrees to participate in an interview, he or she is asked the number of trips taken the preceding two months (a period known as a “wave”). Similarly, charter boat and headboat captains provide information about the number of trips and anglers their boats took over a one week sampling period. From this information, the total number of trips is estimated.

  3. Our method of using telephone interviews to estimate fishing trips for shore and private boat fishing modes is transitioning to a new mail survey known as the Fishing Effort Survey (FES). Our research has shown this move will yield better response rates, reach a broader spectrum of anglers more efficiently, and result in a more accurate accounting of fishing activity than the current CHTS.  

This is our general approach to surveying anglers from Maine to Louisiana. 

Puerto Rico and Hawaii

Puerto Rico

In Puerto Rico, the standard approach utilized on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is used to develop estimates for shore and boat fishing, including charter boats.


In Hawai’i, the standard approach utilized on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts is used for the shore and private boat modes; charter boats are required to report their catch and effort through a state-managed logbook/trip reporting system. 


The Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission established the Pacific Coast Recreational Fisheries information Network, or RecFIN, to integrate federal and state recreational fisheries data.  As part of RecFIN, the states of Washington, Oregon, and California each operate a number of angler survey programs that include intercept, phone, and mail components.

Alaska and Texas


The State of Alaska Department of Fish and Game conducts an annual sport fishing mail survey to gather information about private boat and shore fishing. They also administer a census logbook program for their for-hire fisheries. 


The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has conducted its own survey of marine recreational fisheries since 1974.