Anglers catch more saltwater fish in North Carolina coastal waters than in any other state, except Florida. How do we know this? Through surveys.

The Coastal Angling Program is the collective title that encompasses a set of recreational fishing survey and sampling programs run by the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. The division has collected information on recreational fishing catch and effort since 1981, and is recognized as one of the nation’s leaders in this area. The goal of the Coastal Angling Program is to improve the quality and quantity of recreational fisheries data. Information gathered through CAP is essential for the development of the state's fisheries management plans. 

Information gathering includes mail, telephone, and electronic surveys of those who hold a N.C. Coastal Recreational Fishing License. It also includes in-person interviews with anglers returning to marinas, boat ramps, beaches, fishing piers, and other publicly accessible fishing sites. These interviews are conducted in partnership with NOAA Fisheries’ Marine Recreational Information Program: the state-regional-federal partnership that develops, implements, and improves a national network of recreational fishing surveys to estimate total recreational catch. These interviews are confidential, and the information anglers provide is not used by law enforcement. If you encounter DMF interviewers in the field, please take a few minutes to answer our questions about your fishing trip. Sharing this information is one of the most important contributions you can make to fisheries science, management, and the sustainability of recreational fishing.

Learn more by downloading the Coastal Angling Program brochure

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Data is collected in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP). MRIP surveys collect information on fishing effort and catch, including fish lengths and weights, and socioeconomic characteristics of recreational saltwater finfish fisheries. The CAP participates in the following MRIP surveys:

Access-Point Angler Intercept Survey (APAIS)

Division staff conduct in-person interviews at public boat ramps, marinas, beaches, piers and other fishing access points. Staff are randomly assigned to sites based on recreational fishing activity and cover both daytime and nighttime fishing. The CAP enhances APAIS in North Carolina by increasing the level of sampling with an interview target of 20,000 angler intercepts per year.

For-Hire Survey (FHS)

This survey estimates recreational saltwater fishing effort by for-hire charter boats. North Carolina has approximately 700 active vessels that are randomly surveyed weekly throughout the year.

Large Pelagic Biological Sampling (LPBS)

In North Carolina, this survey collects biological data from bluefin tuna. Division staff take samples of fish to determine age and assist scientists with genetic studies.

Highly Migratory Species (HMS)

Recreational anglers must complete a catch card of their harvest for the following species: bluefin tuna, blue and white marlin, sailfish, roundscale spearfish, and swordfish. Additionally, anglers are encouraged to voluntarily report shark landings.

MRIP Recreational Fisheries Statistics

Dig into recreational fishing data using the NOAA Data Query Tool

The CAP partners with the North Carolina Wildlife Resource Commission on an anadromous creel survey to interview recreational anglers in the estuarine and upper regions of the Tar-Pamlico, Pungo, Neuse, Trent and Cape Fear rivers. This survey focuses on angler participation in fisheries targeting striped bass and shad.

Mail surveys allow CAP to collect data on catch and effort from specialized recreational fisheries. These surveys are conducted bimonthly with participants randomly selected based on their Coastal Recreational Fishing License. Ongoing CAP mail surveys include the following:

  1. Recreational Cast Net and Seine Survey
  2. Recreational Flounder Gigging Survey
  3. Recreational Crab and Shellfish Survey

Information collected from anglers is very important. This data helps biologists and fisheries managers assess the health of fish populations and determine what size and bag limits or seasons are needed to ensure sustainable fish populations. The landings data and fish lengths and weights are critical in the development of Stock Assessments, the backbone of the State’s Fishery Management Plans.