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Gulf Reef Fish Survey FAQs

Are you a Gulf Reef Fish Angler?

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) needs your help. Participate in the no cost Gulf Reef Fish Survey!

Questions? Contact Marine Fisheries Management at 850-487-0554 or


You’ve asked for better data and the FWC has listened. But we need your help. By participating in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey, you are improving recreational data for several reef fish species such as red snapper and gag. The process is easy and no-cost and will help the FWC paint a clearer picture of how many people are targeting Gulf reef fish like red snapper and gag and what they are seeing and harvesting.

Better recreational fisheries data will translate into more accurate and less uncertain fisheries stock assessments and should lead to more reasonable and appropriate fisheries regulations that are more in line with what anglers would expect.


Private recreational anglers fishing from a private boat off Florida’s Gulf coast (excluding Monroe County) who intend to harvest, attempt to harvest or possess one or more of the following reef fish species:

  • red snapper
  • gag
  • greater amberjack
  • lesser amberjack
  • banded rudderfish
  • almaco jack
  • red grouper
  • black grouper
  • vermilion snapper
  • gray triggerfish

The following groups will also be required to participate, even though they are exempt from other saltwater fishing licensing requirements:

  • anglers who are 65 or older,
  • residents who are members of the U.S. Armed Forces but are not stationed in this state and are home on leave for 30 days or less
  • veterans with disabilities, active or reserve duty military service members and their immediate family and/or an assistant who are participating in a permitted outdoor recreational event for which the Commission has issued a Military/Disabled Veteran Event License Exemption Permit to the event organizer.
  • anglers with multi-year or lifetime licenses, and other anglers that are exempt from having to purchase a saltwater fishing license



Anglers who are not required to participate include those who are:

  • fishing from a for-hire vessel (including charter and party boats). There is already a separate survey mechanism in place to collect recreational fisheries data from for-hire vessels.
  • anglers who are under 16 years of age
  • people authorized by the FWC who are harvesting for scientific and educational purposes (such as with a special activity license).
  • fishing from a vessel that has a valid recreational vessel fishing license. (This license covers anyone saltwater fishing from a recreational vessel where no fee is paid. This is not an individual fishing license.)


To sign up, visit, enter your date of birth and one of the required Lookup Method identifiers (social security number, FWC customer ID or drivers license number) and click continue. If you are a new customer, you may have to create a customer account before you proceed to the next steps. Once you are in the system, click “Purchase a License.” Add the no-cost Gulf Reef Fish Angler to your cart (found under “Saltwater Fishing”) and then check out. Make sure to print a copy to take with you.

You can also sign up when renewing or purchasing a saltwater fishing license at any retailer such as tackle shops, sporting goods stores and tax collector offices, or by phone at 1-888-FISHFLORIDA (347-4356). Renewal will be on an annual basis, just like any one-year fishing license.

Are you a Florida resident 65 or older and exempt from needing a recreational saltwater fishing license?  No worries!  Though you are still required to click “Purchase a License,” signing up as a “Gulf Reef Fish Angler” is no-cost. You are not required to purchase any other license, such as a recreational saltwater fishing license, or pay any other fees to participate. You can also sign up at any retailer such as tackle shops, sporting goods stores and tax collector offices, or by phone at 1-888-FISHFLORIDA (347-4356). Renewal will be on an annual basis, just like any one-year fishing license.

Anglers who are renewing or purchasing a license may choose to begin participating in the program right now. Signing up will be mandatory for Gulf reef fish anglers starting April 1, 2015.

Many of those who signed up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey will be contacted by the FWC and asked if they would be willing to provide information about their Gulf reef fish fishing activities.


No. Participating in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey is completely no-cost. All vendor fees when indicating your participation are waived.


If you are transiting back through state waters and landing your fish in Florida, yes, you are required to sign up for the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. If you are fishing in federal waters off Florida and not transiting through Florida state waters or landing in Florida, you are not required to sign up.


The current process for conducting recreational fisheries surveys, known as the Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP), is broad and doesn’t capture the amount and quality of data needed for effective management of reef fish species. It is, however, an effective method for conducting recreational fishing surveys for nearshore species such as redfish and spotted seatrout.

For example, one current method of collecting survey data is through telephone calls to coastal households. While some of these phone calls reach anglers who target Gulf reef fish, many of the people reached do not target these species and are not able to provide data about Gulf reef fish fishing trips. The Gulf Reef Fish Survey would correct this problem by creating a comprehensive list of anglers who are targeting Gulf reef fish.

Florida reef fish anglers have requested that FWC create a system to improve reef fish recreational data collection so that data are more accurate, precise, timely and more in-line with what is happening on the water.

No. The Marine Recreational Information Program (MRIP) is not being replaced by the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. The Survey will be conducted in addition to other data collection efforts such as MRIP.


Yes. The Gulf Reef Fish Survey is the same program that was approved by the Commission at the June 2014 Commission meeting, which at that time was called the “Gulf Reef Fish Data Reporting System.”


If selected to participate, you will likely be contacted by the FWC by mail or email.


If surveyed, you will be asked questions like how many reef fish trips you took in the last month, and when and what region of the Gulf you fished in. 

The vast majority of reef fish landed along Florida’s Gulf coast are caught from a boat.


A mandatory program ensures the most reliable and precise estimates by sampling the actual population of anglers that fish for reef fish in the Gulf. A voluntary system would misrepresent the number of recreational anglers that target and harvest Gulf reef fish and influence estimates of harvest and effort.


A large portion of Florida residents (18% according to the 2012 U.S. Census) are 65 or over. By including anglers that are 65 years and older, the Survey will be better able to sample the actual population of anglers who target reef fish in the Gulf. Including lifetime or multi-year license holders would be beneficial because it would identify which of these anglers are fishing for Gulf reef fish and ensure that contact information for these anglers is current.


The Division of Law Enforcement works to ensure that all outdoor users are well educated. As with all new Commission rules and regulatory changes, FWC officers will use their discretion as all Gulf reef fish anglers adjust.


You can sign up to participate in the Gulf Reef Fish Survey at any time. If you do not know whether you are going to fish for Gulf Reef Fish, you can always wait and sign up at a later date, perhaps shortly before a planned trip.


If you are contacted by the FWC, just let them know that you did not fish for Gulf reef fish.


Funding for the first 5 years is being provided by a post-oil spill Gulf restoration grant obtained through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. 

Based on requests from stakeholders and FWC Commissioners, the Survey will sunset after funding for the program ends on June 30, 2020. Action from the FWC Commissioners would be required for the Survey to continue past June 30, 2020.


Florida’s proposal (Gulf Reef Fish Survey) was developed after careful consideration of different options and represents what the FWC thinks is the most appropriate and least intrusive approach for improved recreational reef fish data collection in our state.

Several other Gulf states are testing and implementing new ways to improve collection of recreational harvest data for red snapper and other federally-managed species as well.


The FWC is committed to working with other Gulf states and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to continue to improve the MRIP program, which will continue to be conducted in addition to the Gulf Reef Fish Survey. FWC biologists may also approach you at the dock after a reef fish trip to collect data from your catch.


The program is funded by a Deepwater Horizon oil spill Gulf restoration grant and these funds are not available for use in areas other than the Gulf of Mexico.

However, FWC could consider future implementation of a similar system in other areas of the state if results from the Gulf indicate significant improvement in recreational reef fish fisheries data collection.