RecFIN Surveys



The Ocean Recreational Boat Survey (ORBS) is conducted by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and evolved from a survey of ocean salmon boats to a survey of all ocean boats. The ORBS estimates total ocean sport effort by boat type (charter and private), and interviews are conducted randomly of ocean boats to generate estimates of catch for both salmon and non-salmon species. All sampled salmon are examined for the presence of a CWT. Additional biological data are collected from salmon and non-salmon species, and anglers are also interviewed regarding released fish species.


Oregon's ocean recreational fishery originated with boats fishing in the bays on stocks of salmon returning to freshwater in the late summer and fall. A few boats would venture out into the ocean on favorable days. The late 1940s and early 1950s marked the beginning of increasing effort by both the charter and private boat fleet in the ocean. Better and safer equipment plus the development of small boat basins and launching ramps and other support facilities in many coastal towns encouraged ocean fishing.

Historically, the primary targeted species of the Oregon recreational fleet has been coho salmon with chinook a distant second. During the 1990's, halibut and bottomfish gain importance and often became the primary target species as salmon opportunities dwindled. The fishery has been sampled by ODFW since the early 1960s. Ocean creel data was supplemented by salmon/steelhead tag license data through the 1980 season. Creel data alone have been used since 1981.

Sampling Methodology

Sampling areas and staffing

The ORBS staffs all major recreational ocean fishing launch locations to determine effort and catch. Those locations usually include:
Hammond/Warrenton/Astoria (Columbia River) 
Garibaldi (Tillamook Bay) 
Pacific City 
Depoe Bay 
Newport (Yaquina Bay)
Winchester Bay (Umpqua River)
Charleston (Coos Bay)
Gold Beach
Samplers are typically in place to sample the ocean fisheries by March in the larger ports and by May or June in the smaller ports. Sampling continues through September or October in some ports. In recent years, seasonal staff levels have been increased due to the need to monitor the bottomfish fishery.

In 1999-2001 ORBS included sampling in nearly all ports year around. That data provides a baseline for estimating the additional uncovered trips and catch.

Sampling Design

A statistical creel survey using a modified random sampling design has been used in all recent years. The ORBS project estimates the ocean effort, catch, and catch rates from private boat and charter boats.

Catch per boat data and angler counts are collected at least several days a week, including all weekends and holidays in all major ports. Anglers are interviewed at boat ramps, moorages, and charter docks. Samplers usually work from early morning to late afternoon, but work hours vary to reflect fishing activity. The catch is sampled for species, fin marks, scales, lengths and some weights. Snouts are collected from salmon with coded wire tags for decoding and age structures are collected for selected species.

Prior to 1999 non-salmon finfish catch was recorded by major species group (rockfish, lingcod, flatfish, halibut, tuna, and miscellaneous) for all sampled trips, and a percentage of the sampled boats were sampled for full species composition. The species composition data was used to refine the major species groups. Since 1999 all fish are recorded to the species level for each boat sampled.

Charter boat effort in most ports is estimated by contacting each charter office for their count of boat trips by trip type i.e. salmon fishing, bottomfish fishing, tuna fishing, etc. Effort information for private boat trips is primarily obtained through boat counts by ODFW samplers of bar crossings. Boat counts are generally conducted 4-6 days per week depending on the number of samplers available at the port, and the effort count method employed. At most ports boats exiting into the ocean are counted from dawn until 10 AM. Expansion factor(s) based on previous interviewed boat counts is applied to account for boats going out after 10 AM. In Pacific City, Depoe Bay, Florence, Bandon, and Gold Beach total effort is estimated from a combination of boat trailer and/or moorage slip counts and a tally of outgoing vessels. Currently, ORBS is evaluating the use of video for bar crossing counts in select ports.

Sample rates vary substantially by port. ORBS maintains a minimum sampling goal of 20% of all ocean trips, and it is rare to find a port/week strata that does not meet the sampling goal. Sampling rates for some ports such as Depoe Bay and Pacific City, reach sampling rates of 60-80% or more. The average coastwide sampling rate is typically within the range of 35-45% of the angler effort.

Catch Estimation

Catch and effort data are error-checked and processed in Newport to produce catch and trip estimates. Boat observations are stratified by charter and private boat type for the calculation of average catch per boat by species. These boat catch rates, when multiplied by total boat effort for a particular period, give a catch estimate for that period. The average number of anglers from interviewed boat is used to estimate total angler trips. The survey provides weekly estimates of Oregon's ocean recreational effort and catch within 4 days after the week ended. Monthly estimates are provided to the Pacific Fishery Management Council and bi-monthly (wave) estimates are used in the RecFIN system.

Variance Estimation

ORBS does not calculate variance estimates with their catch and effort estimates. A fixed amount of variance is added based on "predicted variation" from the simular Washington Ocean Boat survey. ODWW is currently working on methods to calculate appropriate variances. For harvest weight estimates, additional variation is added to the "predicted variation" from the variance around the mean weight of measured fish.

Technical Reports

ORBS Sampling Design - ODFW web site
An Evaluation of Alternative Estimators of Ocean Boat Fishing Effort and Catch in Oregon - 132K Acrobat
ORBS Documentation - In Review, not available
The 1997 RecFIN-OSMP Draft Agreement


ORBS RecFIN Operations - password protected
ODFW Marine Resources Home Page