Literature on recreational fisheries has shown that many aspects of the fishing experience that are non-catch related influence angler satisfaction. However, satisfaction as an independent metric may fail to produce sufficient information regarding perceptions of fishing quality, which may be a more salient component of the fishing experience from a management perspective. Therefore, this study focused on what influences fishing quality in the minds of anglers. We used data collected from a year-long, on-site survey of anglers at the Marben Public Fishing Area (PFA) near Mansfield, Georgia, USA, in an ordinal logistic regression model to investigate angler perceptions of fishing quality. Anglers ranked the quality of fishing at Marben PFA as 6.45 (SD = 2.19) on a 1–10 scale, and significantly higher (t = 5.79, df = 803, P = 0.001) than similar fishing sites with comparable access costs. Results showed that as anglers caught more fish of their target species, they were more likely to report significantly higher ratings of fishing quality. Anglers expressing dissatisfaction with poor catch rates, anglers that fished from piers, and anglers that advocated changes to management were all more likely to report lower quality of fishing ratings than their counterparts. The probability of reporting higher fishing quality ratings also increased significantly with longer driving distance. The results suggest that perceptions of fishing quality are strongly influenced by the catch-related aspects of the fishery and these attributes would serve as suitable criteria for guiding future management efforts at this fishery and among similar fisheries elsewhere. Quantitative assessments of both angler satisfaction and perceived fishing quality will likely produce more clear and meaningful results for managers to describe angler communities and guide fisheries management decisions.