Fishing is becoming increasingly popular after Covid Bump
The number of American anglers continues to rise steadily from pre-pandemic levels, with 52.4 million Americans reporting having participated in recreational fishing in 2021, according to a new report from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF). . This figure represents an overall 15% increase in angler participation since 2015.
Participation levels reached record highs in 2020 (with 54.7 million anglers). This was mainly due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to an increase in outdoor recreation nationwide. Although several fishing categories saw a drop in participation from this record year, the fishery overall remained above pre-pandemic totals, showing a positive trend for the future of recreational fishing in the United States. The RBFF released its report after conducting a total of 18,000 online interviews from a national sample. Here are some key points from the report.
American fishermen are slowly diversifying
The fishing industry, which has historically been dominated by white American men, has tried to increase diversity in recent years, especially as more people have continued to play the sport since the pandemic.
“The growth of recreational fishing in 2020 has been one of the few silver linings to come from the COVID-19 pandemic, and even as American life normalizes, we continue to see more and more new faces adopting sport,” said RBFF CEO and President Dave Chanda. in a press release.
The report indicates progress, but stresses that the industry still has a long way to go. About eight in ten anglers in 2021 were white, and most minorities are still underrepresented in recreational fishing. Black Americans and Asian Americans, for example, made up 8% and 3% of the overall angling community, respectively.
However, one demographic that continues to grow, according to the report, is Hispanic Americans. Although there was a slight decrease from pandemic highs, which saw record numbers of Hispanic American anglers, there were still 4.7 million Hispanic Americans fishing in 2021, representing an increase 7% since 2019.
More women hit the water
The report revealed that 37% of all participating fishermen were women, which is the highest level ever recorded. About 19.4 million women went fishing in 2021, meaning there were 3.8 million more women fisherwomen in 2021 than there were in 2011. There has also been an increase in number of young participants aged 6 to 12.
Children love fishing
The report found that 7.9 million children, aged 6 to 12, went fishing in 2021. This number is consistent with the growth in youth participation that the RBFF has tracked in recent years. It also bodes well for fisher-led conservation efforts in the future. This is because more fishing licenses translate to more conservation dollars, and because identifying as an angler makes someone more likely to support fisheries conservation in general. (Check out a photo report on the future of bass fishing here). About 86% of all anglers in the survey indicated that they were introduced to fishing before the age of 12, showing the importance of getting anglers started at a young age.
The report highlights that households with children were more likely to go fishing than those without children. In 2021, 21% of households with children aged 1 to 17 went fishing, compared to 14% of households without children.
There are fewer hardcore anglers
The main downward trend across all areas continues to be the level of angler engagement. Over the past 15 years, anglers have been less likely to regularly participate in the sport. Only 5.4% of fishermen declared having fished at least once a week in 2021, compared to 9% in 2007. More than two thirds of the fishermen questioned declared having gone fishing only once to 11 times in 2021, an average of less than once a week. month.
Although levels of engagement are declining, a large number of participants indicated that they would like to fish more often, including 31% occasional anglers and 18% avid anglers. Importantly, 99% of anglers surveyed in 2021 said they plan to continue fishing this year.
Freshwater fishing is king
Nearly 41 million Americans ages 6 and older fished in freshwater in 2021. That’s nearly 8 out of 10 total participants. There were 13.8 million saltwater anglers in 2021, down 5% from 2020, and the number of trips fell 8%. However, participation in saltwater fishing is still up from 2019, according to the report.
Fishing pressure remains a concern
Many fisheries managers have indicated that the growth in fishing participation across the country is a good thing for the sport as a whole. However, there are concerns about how an increasing number of anglers could affect fish populations.
Last summer, Christine Peterson reported on the effects of increased fishing participation during the pandemic and how managers were dealing with the growing pressure. Several people have expressed concern about the ability of natural systems to handle the increased activity, especially with other issues severely affecting fish populations including climate change, habitat loss and drought.
Based on the findings of the RBFF report, fisheries managers will need to continue to address these issues and find ways to allow increased access without harming the resource. Because if national fishing trends continue, there will only be more and more people on the water in the years to come.