ORLANDO, Florida— “That’s a goal, to have a fishing license available on Amazon.” The words came from Mike Nussman, President and CEO of the American Sportfishing Association (ASA), in an opening address that laid out the ASA’s vision of the U.S. fishing industry in the Orange County Convention Center.
Gathered in front of Nussman, a crowd of some 500 industry affiliates cocked an ear over the 2015 ICAST State of the Industry Breakfast. Whether literally or figuratively, Nussman’s point was driven home— the ASA wants to make fishing more accessible. “We have to make the fishing license experience easier,” he said, while laying out a three-part strategy to help the sportfishing industry grow.
The strategy is called R3: Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation.
Nussman said it’s his hope that the strategy will push America’s sportfishing industry from its present 46-million angler threshold to upwards of 60 million.
According to the ASA, those current angler numbers are down, though holding steady, from a high of 52-million in 2007. However, future projections—without the R3 campaign—show an eventual, decades-long decline.
With the campaign, however, the ASA hopes to make fishing the number one recreational activity in the country. To do that, in a kick-start of their R3 campaign, the ASA has partnered with Disney, the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF, TakeMeFishing.org, VamosaPescar.org) and the Boy Scouts of America.
According to a presentation, TakeMeFishing.org and Vamos a Pescar—recreational fishing focused campaigns designed to promote the sport—recorded nearly 10 million web hits combined last year, and Nussman noted that in addition to handing out their two millionth fishing merit badge recently, the Boy Scouts of America have already trained 500 fishing instructors, with plans to train 500 more by the end of the year.
In his opening comments, Nussman was quick to point out the positive momentum ASA has going into this year’s ICAST. Over 13,000 industry affiliates are expected to attend the show, which runs through Friday. And officials from the Orange County Convention Center estimate ICAST 2015 have a $26 million impact on the local economy. “As far as I know,” Nussman remarked, “It’s the largest fishing show ever held in the world.”
ICAST has already experienced several firsts this year, including an all-time registration high in addition to its first On the Water event (at Lake Toho, Tuesday) and kickoff concert (with Easton Corbin, Tuesday evening). Now, ICAST is poised to be the first place the public gets a glimpse of sportfishing’s longterm future.
Through technology, marketing and passion, this industry just might make it happen. Before stepping down, Nussman showed the crowd a final piece to his puzzle: an interactive fishing map from the RBFF. It’s designed to show anyone with a computer or smartphone where to go fishing.
“We need this widget to take the place of my granddad telling me where to go catch bream,” said Nussman. “We need this widget to be my granddad.”
In widgets we trust.