participation life cycle

A Look at Who Is Fishing

Recently the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF) along with Outdoor Foundation released their Special Report on Fishing and Boating 2013. This special report gives great insight on who is fishing, where they are fishing, who the newest anglers are, and which demographics you need to target now for new sales opportunities.

For those of you who may not have the time to read the entire report, here is a snapshot of the findings. Please take the time to read this report at some point in the near future. This report will not only help you understand where our sport is going, it will also give you a sneak peek into the new customers you will be encountering and should be soliciting now before it is too late and your competition beats you to the punch.

Total Participation
On page three of the report there is a chart showing the trend of total freshwater angler participation in the last six years. It is easy to see the decline in numbers from 2008 to 2010, and since then we have had a steady incline in numbers. The decline in participants for those few years also aligns with the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statics’ charts on the most recent recession, and the increase in unemployment from December 2007 to June 2009. The fact that the number of anglers is rebounding with the economy is a great story for everyone. Let’s all hope the economic upswing continues, as does the interest in fishing.

The ladies also made a splash on the participation charts; forty-one percent of first-time fishing participants are female. In case you haven’t noticed, there are more female anglers now than there has been in recent years. Currently the ladies make up over a third of all anglers – thirty-four percent. The market may still be male-dominated, but watch these numbers change in the coming years; more ladies will be hitting the water as they are introduced to our great sport.

Married with Children
Fishing has always been a family activity. Who could forget the opening to the Andy Griffith show where he and Ron Howard walked down the road with their cane poles while whistling? The RBFF’s report shows that this trend hasn’t changed. More than fifteen percent of the adults who have children in their homes reported that they participate in fishing regularly, and over eighty percent of children ages six to twelve are reported to be introduced to fishing by their parents.

While parents are leading the way for introducing children of all ages to fishing, they are not the only ones. Other relatives, brothers or sisters and friends make up the second largest group of mentors in the fishing world. Community groups and schools come in third. It is great to see so many opportunities are there for our next generation of anglers. Hopefully these numbers continue to grow.

Never Too Old to Learn to Fish
The report also shows that more mid-aged adults are taking up the sport of fishing as well. This correlates with the trend of more married with children families fishing. This group of anglers, aged 25-44, saw the largest increase in new anglers of any age demographic in the report. The next biggest growth in any age group was the youngsters aged 6-12, followed by the 45+ group. When you look at the Participation life cycle of anglers, this trend continues with most anglers spiking in their early years, and then spiking again in their mid-adult years after a sharp decline in their late adolescent years through their early twenties. Hopefully more angling opportunities can keep these numbers up and reduce the decline through those years.

participation life cycle

Who To Target Next?
This report does a phenomenal job at showing who has started fishing and is fishing, along with which groups make up the largest growth demographics. Who will be the next group to show the largest growth? Children aged six to twelve is always a popular group. It seems there is an endless supply of that age group and more enter into it each day. The problem with targeting that niche group is they cannot drive, and many cannot afford to buy their fishing tackle either, so you need to target their parents with an emphasis on them taking the children fishing.

Women will continue to be a growing force within our sport, and rightfully so. You can see the trend has been building in the past decade with more female-inspired graphics on fishing equipment, along with more footwear and apparel made specifically for the ladies. Treat each female customer with respect and help her just as you would any male that enters your store. She and her friends are all your new target audience.

While Caucasian Males aged 25-44 are currently the largest group of freshwater anglers, that may someday change. The group this report and other reports have suggested retailers need to target is the growing Hispanic population in the U.S. This group is not only the fastest growing demographic within the U.S., but it is also the largest untapped market by fishing tackle retailers. Retailers within the West South Central region of the country, namely Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana, should be developing their marketing and advertising strategies to tap into this market, as well as other areas that are seeing a large Hispanic community. Currently they only make up 5.6 percent of the angling populous, but they make up a far larger percentage of America’s population, and many of them report that they are interested in fishing, they appear to just need help getting started. Help them get into the sport and watch a very loyal demographic become your new, best customers.

Saltwater fishing’s participants are less in overall numbers compared to freshwater fishing, but these numbers may be more indicative of the availability to the waters than interest. Saltwater anglers typically live closer to the oceans and as such will be a smaller group. While these numbers are less than freshwater anglers, they appear to be a much more hardy group and are showing a great rebound in numbers as well. If you specialize in saltwater fishing, continue to keep a positive outlook as the numbers are climbing back to what they were in 2006. The largest active group of saltwater anglers is males 45 years and older. This group also tends to have the largest expendable income, so keep after them to spend their money in your store.

Flyfishing unfortunately is also less popular than freshwater and saltwater fishing. While most fly fishing anglers can fish the same waters as most freshwater anglers, the participation numbers are not as high as freshwater angling numbers, yet. The key to that sentence is yet, as fly anglers are the most diverse group within the study. With the populations of Hispanics, Asian/Pacific Islanders and African Americans/Blacks in the U.S. growing annually, fly fishing is sure to grow in popularity as well due to its diverse following. In 2012 almost a quarter of all fly anglers were first-timers. This is the largest percentage of first-time anglers of the three fishing segments. The key to growing flyfishing in your area is to introduce more people to the sport. Once this is accomplished, you should see a loyal following by your new customers.

Summary
This report has confirmed what many have thought about the diverse demographics of the angling populous. It has also shed light on the up-and-coming groups fishing tackle retailers need to focus their energies on while capitalizing on the growth of these newer demographics. Nothing will change overnight, but the sooner you can start cultivating new customers from these demographics, the better your business will be in the long run. Who knows who the leading demographic of anglers will be in twenty or thirty years, but after reading this report, every fishing tackle retailer will know who to start targeting now.

Have you noticed a shift in who the anglers are in your area? If so, how have you started marketing to them or have you continued to use the same approach to bring them into your store, and has that worked? Share your thoughts with us on these new trends and your thoughts on this report on our Facebook page or in our LinkedIn group.