California Department of Fish and Wildlife

California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS)

What is the CRFS?

California Recreational Fisheries Survey. CDFW file photo.

California Recreational Fisheries Survey. CDFW file photo.

The California Recreational Fisheries Survey (CRFS) is the method for estimating total marine recreational finfish catch and effort in California. The CRFS is a coordinated sampling survey designed to gather catch and effort data from anglers in all modes of marine recreational finfish fishing. This program incorporates and updates the comprehensive sampling methodologies of the former Marine Recreational Fisheries Statistics Survey (MRFSS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's (CDFW) Ocean Salmon Project. The CRFS program incorporates many changes and improvements over previous surveys, including:

  • High frequency on-site sampling
  • On-site estimates of private skiff effort
  • Emphasis on species of concern
  • Use of an angler license database for effort estimates

The primary goal of the CRFS is to produce, in a timely manner, marine recreational fishery-based data needed to sustainably manage California's marine recreational fishery resources.

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Why was the CRFS created?

In response to fishery managers' and constituents' concerns about the use of MRFSS for making management decisions, CDFW and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) developed the CRFS. The CRFS was created to provide accurate and timely estimates of marine recreational finfish catch and effort. The program was implemented state-wide in January 2004.

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Elements of the CRFS

  • A single, integrated statewide marine recreational finfish sampling program
  • Increased sampling for private, rental, and Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessels ("party" boats, or CPFVs)
  • Estimation of beach/bank and private access angler effort using an angler license database
  • Effort and catch estimation on man-made structures using instantaneous angler counts, roving effort surveys, and angler interviews
  • Monthly effort and catch estimates for all modes at a finer geographical resolution
  • Sufficient sampling of private/rental vessels to meet ocean management data requirements including collection of coded wire tags in salmon heads

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Sampling Effort

As a result of the increased sampling levels, recreational anglers, particularly those who fish frequently, are more likely to encounter CDFW representatives conducting the survey. Angler cooperation is critical to the success of the survey. Every fishing trip is different - different target species, different locations, gear, etc. - so, even if you have completed the survey before, please cooperate each time you are asked!

Your participation is essential to ensure accurate data collection and sustainable management of California's marine recreational fishery.

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CRFS Samplers

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Reminder for CPFV Owners and Operators

The cooperation of owners and operators of commercial passenger fishing vessels (CPFVs) has been critical to the success of the CRFS since its inception in 2004. Onboard and dockside sampling of CPFVs by CRFS samplers will continue. CPFV operators and anglers are reminded that accurate catch and effort estimates depend on the catch and discard data collected by CRFS samplers while onboard CPFVs. In addition, the CRFS samplers must observe both open and charter trips, and must gather effort data to ensure the best possible estimates.

Anglers are reminded that, by law (Section 105.5, Title 14, California Code of Regulations), owners or operators of CPFVs must carry and accommodate CRFS samplers on fishing trips when asked. CRFS samplers will ask to observe both charter and open fishing trips. If observer coverage of a trip is denied by the owner or operator of the vessel, CDFW may request a written explanation for the denial, and CPFV owners or operators who deny observer coverage of a trip may have their fishing permits or licenses revoked.

Anglers are encouraged to answer the CRFS sampler's questions; however, angler participation in the survey is voluntary. The CRFS sampler will ask anglers onboard CPFVs about the species they intend to target, how often they fish, and the county in which they live. While anglers are fishing, the CRFS sampler will collect data on the catch rate, the species composition of the catch, the fishing location and conditions, and length and weight of fish that the anglers do not keep. After anglers have completed fishing for the day, CRFS samplers will record lengths and weights of kept fish.

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Additional CRFS Information

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Related Publications

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CRFS Database

  • CRFS Estimates
    Perform your own queries and generate your own recreational fishery estimates. Operated by PSMFC (Note - because CRFS and MRFSS estimates are not directly comparable, this link accesses data from 2004 on; visit the link below for estimates for years prior to 2004)
  • Historical CRFS Estimates
    Operated by PSMFC.

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Related Links

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CRFS Employment Opportunities

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Contact Information

For additional information on the CRFS, questions, or comments, please contact the following CDFW offices:

Los Alamitos Field Office and Laboratory
4665 Lampson Ave., Suite C
Los Alamitos, CA 90720
(562) 342-7100
FAX (562) 342-7139

Monterey Field Office and Laboratory
20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100
Monterey, CA 93940
(831) 649-2870
FAX (831) 649-2894

Belmont Field Office and Laboratory
350 Harbor Blvd.
Belmont, CA 94002
(650) 631-7730

Eureka Office and Laboratory
619 2nd Street
Eureka, CA 95501
(707) 441-5757
FAX (707) 445-7883