CRFS Survey Design

Parts of the CRFS Survey | Field Survey Flow | Sample Design Stratification

Telephone Survey

Parts of the CRFS Survey

There are three parts to the survey portion of the program:

  1. Field sampling survey
    • Used to collect catch and effort data during daylight hours at publicly accessible sites
    • Collected for four different fishing modes: beaches and banks, man-made structures, private/rental boats, and commercial passenger fishing vessels
  2. Telephone survey
    • Uses the Automated License Data System (ALDS) to select and contact anglers
    • A survey occurring each calendar month
    • Used to collect effort data (number of trips) at beach and bank sites, and for private boats returning to sites not sampled during the field survey or private boats returning at night
    • The data are used to estimate effort on beaches and banks and to make under-coverage adjustments for effort of private and rental boats
    • About 26,000 anglers interviewed per year
  3. Commercial Passenger Fishing Vessel Logs
    All commercial passenger fishing vessel (CPFV) captains are required to submit a log for each fishing trip. This information is combined with field sampling data to obtain effort data.

Field Survey Flow

Field Survey FlowField surveys and resulting sample data are used to generate catch and effort estimates. Two basic components are needed to calculate a catch estimate: 1) a fishing effort estimate and 2) a catch-rate estimate (catch per unit effort, CPUE). Estimates are used to manage California's diverse and economically important recreational fisheries. CDFW calculates catch and effort estimates; these estimates are shared with the Recreational Fisheries Information Network (RecFIN) for management, storage, and searchability.

CRFS estimates are used by the Fish and Game Commission, the Pacific Fishery Management Council, and others to make management decisions about California’s marine resources.

CRFS data and estimates are used in:

  • Tracking in-season catches against annual harvest limits. The data are used in tracking certain overfished rockfish species such as yelloweye rockfish and cowcod
  • Producing in-season salmon estimates in coordination with the CDFW Ocean Salmon Project
  • Aiding the development of regulations including fishing seasons, bag limits, minimum size limits, and depth limits
  • Stock assessments for individual fish species

Sample Design Stratification

The CRFS sampling design is stratified by:


CRFS sampler with anglers
CRFS sampler with angler
CRFS samplers
CRFS sampler

The survey directly samples four main modes of access to recreational fisheries, where the vast majority of catch and effort occurs. Each mode presents unique challenges, involves unique sampling methodologies, and requires that modes to be sampled independently to allow production of robust estimates.

  • Beaches and Banks: These access points are highly diffuse and require samplers to cover large geographic areas to intercept anglers.
  • Charter/Party Boats: Sampling commercial passenger fishing vessels (CPFVs) can occur dockside when vessels land or onboard allowing for direct observation of catch (including discards).
  • Private and Rental Boats: Anglers are intercepted at launch facilities as they return from their fishing trips.
  • Man-made Structures: Piers, jetties and breakwaters are popular sites for shore-based anglers.


California has been divided into six geographic areas or districts for CRFS. The location of fishery management boundaries, distance recreational boats typically travel from major ports and county lines were taken into account when establishing district boundaries.

  1. South District – Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties. This is a highly urbanized district with many marina and harbor facilities for boaters and dozens of piers and man-made structures that are heavily used.
  2. Channel District – Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. This district is an ecological transition zone for warm water and cold water fish species. High fishing effort occurs year-round.
  3. Central District – Santa Cruz, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo counties. There are five major ports for boaters with miles of open sandy coast for shore anglers.
  4. San Francisco District – Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties on the coast, and the eight counties surrounding San Francisco and San Pablo bays (Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Sonoma, Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties). This is a highly urbanized area which includes the state's largest estuary.
  5. Wine District – Mendocino County and the Shelter Cove section of Humboldt County. Fishing is more seasonal in this district with much of the coastline difficult to access for shore fishing.
  6. Redwood District – Del Norte County and the most of Humboldt County (excludes Shelter Cove section). Fishing is more seasonal in this district with much of the coastline difficult to access for shore fishing.


The sample design takes into account that effort differs based on the type of day (weekdays or weekends/holidays). In general, fishing effort is higher on weekends and holidays than on weekdays.


The sample design takes into account that effort is different based on private vs. public sites.

Day or nighttime fishing

The sample design takes into account that effort is different based daytime vs. nighttime fishing.

Water Area

The sample design takes into account that effort is different based on water area, whether it’s fishing in a nearshore area, offshore area, or in an enclosed bay or estuary.