Good News on Fishing Participation Numbers

Participation trends are important to everyone in the fishing industry whether you are a retailer, a manufacturer, or an avid angler.

Participation trends are important to everyone in the fishing industry whether you are a retailer, a manufacturer, or an avid angler. More anglers mean more revenue for retailers and manufacturers but the avid angler benefits from robust participation because the taxes paid on fishing gear fund conservation efforts that take care of the fisheries and also for the political influence it garners. A robust fishing community with a healthy participation growth holds more political weight and sway how those tax revenues are spent and advocate for regulations that affect all of us.

At the ASA Summit, everyone in the room has a vested interest in participation numbers growing so it makes sense that the first speakers in the general sessions spoke on the subject. Rob Southwick is president of Southwick Associates which is a research firm specializing in Sportfishing, hunting and the shooting industry. Stephanie Vatalero is SVP of Marketing and Communications for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and responsible for the organization’s consumer and stakeholder outreach, as well as their Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns. Both groups do extensive surveys to measure participation and this year they delivered more good news for the fishing industry by reporting that participation is up by 9%. 

A nugget from their research showed that in 1991 the fishing participation rate stood at 19%. In 2006 it had dropped to 13%. In 2022 it had risen to 15% and this upward trend took a steep climb up over the last few years while the US population actually only grew slightly as compared to prior periods. So fishing participation didn’t follow the population trend, which is encouraging.

There are some big opportunities to grow participation especially among women and people of color because participation among these groups has not kept up with population growth.

For instance, 19.8 million women went fishing in 2022.but women make up 51% of the Us population but only 36% of their number of fishing participants. Imagine what would happen if we could get that number to 50%. 

If you look at Generation Z (born 1996-2915) 44.9% of them are non-hispanic White.  But among those of us who fish, 75% are non-hispanic White.  So again, imagine what would happen if we grew participation among people of color to match Gen Z. 

Increasing participation in fishing would have many positive effects on all of us and it’s vital for us to continue to be able to enjoy the access to fishing waters and to have those waters hold healthy populations of fish.  Don’t we all want those things?