Saltwater recreational fishing is an American pastime, conservation contributor, and important economic driver nationwide. Millions of Americans access the great outdoors through recreational fishing each year, strengthening families, friendships, and communities while contributing $63 billion in sales impacts and $36 billion in gross domestic product each year to the national economy. Saltwater recreational fisheries are crucial for introducing and connecting the next generation to the natural world while simultaneously presenting complex stewardship challenges, including balancing ecosystem conservation with social and economic benefits for the nation.
We recognize the importance of the recreational fishing community and its benefits to coastal economies and are committed to actively engaging with and responding to its interests at both the national and regional levels.
8.5 million recreational anglers
In 2018, 8.5 million anglers took 194 million trips.
>351 million fish
The number of fish that recreational anglers caught in 2015, 57 percent of which were released alive.
Nearly 440,000 jobs
In 2015, the recreational fishing industry supported this number of jobs.
Recreational anglers spent $28.7 billion on fishing trips and durable goods such as rods and reels, fishing-related equipment, and boats in 2015.
65 million pounds of fish harvested in Florida
In 2015, Florida was the state with the most recreational fishing activity with more than 65 million pounds of fish harvested followed by North Carolina at 10 million pounds.
National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy
Our Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy guides agency planning, activities, and decision-making. National and regional implementation plans guide the course for our recreational fisheries work.
Recreational Fisheries Across the U.S.
Whether it’s casting in Maine or trolling in Guam, there are diverse saltwater recreational fishing opportunities to be had in U.S. waters.
Atlantic Highly Migratory Species
Atlantic highly migratory species are very popular with saltwater anglers. These fish live throughout the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean waters and include tuna, sharks, swordfish, and billfish.
Marine Recreational Information Program
The Marine Recreational Information Program is the state-regional-federal partnership responsible for developing, improving, and implementing surveys that measure how many trips saltwater anglers take and how many fish they catch.
For Recreational Fishermen
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The NOAA Fisheries Web Team
Federal Fishing Permits
Since January 1, 2011, a saltwater recreational fishing license or registration from any state or U.S. territory except Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, automatically registers you in the National Saltwater Angler Registry and you do not need to take further action. Otherwise, please visit the registry to ensure you are registered. If you plan on fishing anywhere for highly migratory species—such as tunas and billfish, or for bottomfish in Hawaii, check out the links below to get the permits you need.
Federal Rules & Regulations
In partnership with the regional fishery management councils, interstate marine fisheries commissions, international fisheries management organizations, and under the guidance of the Magnuson Stevens Conservation and Management Act, NOAA Fisheries plays a key role in the implementation and enforcement of federal fishery rules and regulations in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (3 to 200 miles off shore).
State Regulations and Licenses
If you are fishing in state waters (generally 0 to 3 miles off shore), you will need to reach out to your state fish and wildlife agency for a fishing license.
Fishing Access Points
We provide a comprehensive, online database of public recreational fishing sites on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts (Maine through Mississippi) and Puerto Rico.
Search public recreational fishing sites—Click the “Guest Login” button to browse recreational access points in your state.
Responsible Fishing Practices
Learn what you can do to be a responsible steward of our ocean resources.
Reef fish in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, like snapper and grouper, suffer from barotrauma when brought to the surface, and many die. But these fish can survive when released at depth using fish descenders. See how easy they are to use in the video below.
Research and Funding Opportunities
Find out how you can get involved in monitoring the health of our oceans and fish resources.
More About This Topic
U.S. marine fisheries are the largest in the world—covering 4.4 million square miles of ocean. In the United States, we manage fisheries to support our domestic seafood supply, protect ecosystem health and sustainability, create jobs and support economic and social benefits, and provide fishing opportunities for all types of fishermen.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is the primary law governing marine fisheries management in U.S. federal waters. Key objectives of the MSA are to prevent overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks, increase long-term economic and social benefits, and ensure a safe and sustainable supply of seafood.
Regional Fishery Management Councils
The MSA created eight regional fishery management councils responsible for the fisheries in their region that require conservation and management. The councils develop and amend fishery management plans, set annual catch limits, develop research priorities, implement rebuilding plans, and conduct public meetings.
We work closely with the Marine Fisheries Commissions and their member states to collect data and manage fisheries resources in shared coastal regions:
National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy and Implementation Plans
Released in 2015, the Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Policy guides agency planning, activities, and decision-making. Subsequent national and regional implementation plans identify goals, guiding principles, and actions in support of the development and maintenance of enduring and sustainable high quality saltwater recreational fisheries. Together these documents guide the course for our recreational fisheries work.
NOAA Fisheries’ Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Initiative works to strengthen and maintain our partnership with the saltwater recreational community through action. Learn more about national meetings on recreational fisheries topics.
2018 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit
In March, NOAA Fisheries and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission co-hosted the 2018 National Saltwater Recreational Fisheries Summit to improve opportunity and stability in recreational fisheries.
Regional Roundtable Meetings
The 2016-2017 roundtable meetings looked to build on past progress by creating new and strengthening existing relationships; identifying mutual interests; highlighting regional concerns and priorities; identifying regionally shared issues; and providing us with clarifications and insights to inform regional and national agency planning.
National Artificial Reef Workshop
In June 2016, in coordination with the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, we convened a National Artificial Reef Workshop. The workshop highlighted important factors to consider in understanding the potential role of artificial reefs to support and/or enhance sustainable fisheries in regions across the nation.
Effective recreational fisheries management starts with accurate scientific information about fish and fisheries. Through stock assessments and information from recreational fishermen on their fishing trips and catch along with other information, we can assess and maintain sustainable U.S. fish stocks. And we collect economic data to help us understand the impacts of marine recreational fisheries.
Marine Recreational Information Program
The Marine Recreational Information Program is the state-regional-federal partnership responsible for developing, improving, and implementing surveys that measure how many trips saltwater anglers take and how many fish they catch. This vital information, combined with other data such as commercial catch and biological research, enables scientists and managers to assess and maintain sustainable U.S. fish stocks.
NOAA Fisheries’ scientific stock assessments are critical to modern fisheries management. Using data gathered from fishermen and our own on-the-water scientific observations, a stock assessment describes the past and current status of a fish population or stock, answers questions about the size of the stock, and makes predictions about how a fishery will respond to current and future management measures.
Recreational Fisheries Economics
We collect economic data, develop economic models, and conduct analyses to describe the economic impacts associated with marine recreational fisheries, to estimate the level and distribution of benefits derived from those fisheries, to understand and predict the behavior of recreational fisheries participants, and to understand the outcomes of alternative management actions on recreational fisheries and their participants.
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Data & Maps
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