Fishing Achieves Highest Participation Level in 14 Years

ALEXANDRIA, VA  – The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) 2021 Special Report on Fishing has revealed fishing grew in popularity with nearly 55 million participants, including 4.4 million first-timers, picking up a rod as Americans searched for safe activities to relieve their stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This latest report brings the fishing industry even closer to its goal of reaching 60 million participants within the 60-month period ending in December 2021.

The 2021 Special Report on Fishing also found that the industry continues to reach new and diverse audiences:

  • Female participation increased 10% to 19.7 million.
  • 13.5 million youth ages 6 to 17 hitting the water, a crucial indicator for the future as 88% of current anglers began fishing before the age of 12.
  • 4.8 million Hispanic Americans went fishing in 2020, an all-time high.
  • African American participation increased by 14.6% year-over-year, comprising 7.7% of all anglers in 2020.

“Over the last five years, our targeted outreach efforts and long-term planning positioned fishing well to handle the unique challenges and opportunities faced during 2020,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for RBFF. “As Americans looked for safe ways to get out of their homes during the pandemic, fishing offered a socially-distant outlet for families and individuals to get outdoors and experience the wellness benefits of nature.”

More than 61% of first-time anglers expected their trip to be relaxing, and spending time with family was the most common motivation to start fishing according to the study.

“We are thrilled to see so many new and returning anglers enjoying our nation’s waters. Anglers have always been a force for conservation, and we appreciate their continued support to sustain aquatic resources for future generations,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams.

While the fishing industry was able to attract newcomers, the “leaky bucket” continues to be an issue as the annual churn rate reached 17.5% with 8.8 million prior participants not fishing in 2020. Stopping the leak is dependent on the industry’s ability to convert newcomers into loyal, repeat anglers.

To retain 2020 newcomers and continue to attract a wide range of Americans to fishing, RBFF has again partnered with Discover Boating for a second year of their Get On Board campaign. This effort aims to promote the wellness benefits of fishing and boating and show The Water Is Open to Everyone. Free, customizable tools are available at

The Special Report on Fishing was created in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation and provides one of the most comprehensive looks at the state of U.S. fishing and take out boating participation. The full report, along with an accompanying infographic, is available at The website also features beginner resources, including how-to guides for getting started and an interactive map of places to fish and boat.


RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase recreational angling and boating participation, thereby protecting and restoring the nation’s aquatic natural resources. RBFF’s 60 in 60 effort strives to attract 60 million anglers to the sport by the end of 2021. To help recruit, retain and reactivate participants, RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ campaigns to build awareness of boating, fishing, and conservation and educate people about the benefits of participation.
The campaign websites feature how-to-videos and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots, helping boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan, and equip for a successful day on the water.

RBFF also offers its industry stakeholders many tools including a Fishing License & Boat Registration Plugin to connect their customers with the information they need in just one click, as well as an embeddable Places to Fish & Boat Map to help their customers discover places to fish and boat near them.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the leading trade organization for the North American recreational boating industry. NMMA member companies produce more than 80 percent of the boats, engines, trailers, marine accessories and gear used by millions of boaters in North America. The association manages the industry’s Discover Boating campaign and serves its members and their sales and service networks by improving the business environment for recreational boating including providing sales and marketing platforms, decreasing the cost of doing business, and helping grow boating participation. Learn more at and follow along on Twitter and LinkedIn.

At the Marine Retailers Association of the Americas, we believe that for the marine industry to thrive, the retail organizations that interact with the boaters in their community must thrive. With that in mind, MRAA works to create a strong and healthy boating industry by uniting those retailers, providing them with opportunities for improvement and growth, and representing them with a powerful voice. For more information, visit or contact us at 763-315-8043.