This article presents estimates of the recreational value of fishing in New Zealand. The data was obtained from a large‐scale interview conducted at boat ramps across New Zealand. The results suggest that the recreational value of a species depends critically on the motives for targeting a particular species. Species targeted for eating purposes have marginal values that appear to closely reflect the market price of the fish (i.e. the opportunity cost). In contrast, those species which are sought mainly for recreational purposes, have a higher value. Furthermore, values for these fish types were found to be greatest for scarce species and large species of fish. The article examines the robustness of the estimates to determine whether strategic bias, embedding effects or hypothetical bias influence the results.