One of the joys of fishing has always been just how affordable it is as a pastime. Many of you reading this will no doubt have fond memories of heading down to the lake with a family member with a simple rod, a bobber and some bread or worms as bait— itdoesn’t get much simpler or cheaper, does it? But is fishing still an affordable pastime for the masses?
When I look back on my total spend on it in the last 12 months, I’m not so sure! Naturally, like with any hobby, you can spend as much or as little as you want within reason. If you want the top-of-the-line Daiwa or Shimano reel with more complicated mechanics than your car, then why not? You don’t necessarily need it, but it’s nice to have. My Achilles heel is expensive fly fishing gear and I’m not ashamed to admit it, but what about those of us for whom cost is a really important factor in whether we can go fishing or not? I decided to investigate on a global stage.
For this test, I took five countries – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Denmark and New Zealand – and compared how much the average fishing trip might cost an angler today in 2021. Before we go on, I’m not a research company and my methods are not scientific; however, they do give a feel for the ballpark cost of fishing in different countries.
The cost of fishing in five different countries
The most obvious thing you first have to spend money on as an angler before you even start dreaming of shiny new tackle, is a fishing license. In the United States, each state has its own licence, the cheapest costing just $11 (Delaware) and the most expensive being $50 in California. That in itself is already a pretty big disparity. Obviously, a lot of it comes down to how many people live in the state, the quality of the fishing and the water and individual state laws. The average price is around the $25 figure. For non-residents, it’s more like $65.
Here in the U.K., we have a flat rate which stands at about $8 for a single-day licence and about $42 for an annual one. Denmark fared best on this metric, with prices of approximately $6.50 for a day licence and $28.80 for an annual one. France upped the cost a little to about $12 for a day and around $70 for a year. New Zealand blew them all out of the water with an eye-watering $15 for a day ($24 for a non-resident) and $95 for a year. Now, I’ve been fortunate enough to pay that $24 for a day and let me tell you, it’s worth every penny. New Zealand is God’s country for fishing, especially on the fly. But the difference in license fees alone already shows that not all fishing trips are created equal when it comes to cost. Of course, we have to take into account that different countries’ economies are at different levels, but these are five well-developed and strong economies with GDP rates in the top 50 worldwide.
Access (or lack of)
The United States is in a fortunate position whereby a lot of its waters are public land, meaning that in most cases, once you’ve paid your licence, you are free to fish wherever you like. In other nations that is not the case.
Speaking from personal experience, the United Kingdom is not the same. To fish a man-made fishery here usually costs you about $13 per go, same for many stretches of canal. Private lakes and stretches of river (yes fishing clubs own stretches of river here) can cost you considerably more. Many even have waiting lists to join their club in order to be able to fish. And they ain’t cheap. I’m a member of one such club with a few decent stretches of river that sets me back about $80 a year. Imagine if you are in five or six of those.
France takes it to another level with its private waters – it is well-known for carp fishing complexes that attract anglers from across Europe. Some can cost almost $1,000 a week at peak times. This doesn’t seem to deter the keen carp anglers though. In Denmark you can pay anywhere between $8 and $16 to fish a private lake or stream; and in New Zealand, many of the rivers and lakes have small fees to fish, but the real expense here is usually a guide.
Tackle and transport
For our purposes, I tried to see how cheap I could find a rod and reel combo in each country. France came out on top with a Redfish telescopic combo coming in at $23. Next, it was the USA ($25 for a Shakespeare Catch More Fish combo) closely followed by the UK ($27 for a Shakespeare Firebird combo). In New Zealand the cheapest I could find was a different Shakespeare Catch More Fish combo for $57, this could be due to the distance of import. Worst of the pile was Denmark – a Kinetic Enforcer combo hits you in the purse strings for $79. There may be cheaper set-ups out there or sales with lower prices, but this is based on similar types of combos.
I wanted to check on transport too, seen as you usually have to drive to where you fish. The most basic yardstick for this is fuel cost. In the USA, gas is roughly $3.11 a gallon, in New Zealand it’s $5.90, the U.K. it’s $6.50, France $6.70, and Denmark $7.10. No wonder they like cycling so much in Copenhagen!
The unscientific scores on the doors
So, here goes. My hypothetical fishing trip costs around the world cost roughly the following in each country (based on annual licence, cheapest combo, average water access price and full tank of fuel):
- USA – $90
- U.K. – $166
- France – $200
- Denmark – $211
- New Zealand – $238
I had to tweak these a little, as I wasn’t going to include the extortionate premium French carp fishing fees in that country’s figures. You can fish places for cheaper than that. But you can see that the cost of fishing can vary wildly from country to country, and in the USA’s case, from state to state. Are we doing everything we can as an industry to keep fishing affordable? I’d like to think so, but maybe this article will make you think about how you could do more, wherever you are in the chain. Afterall, what fishing gives us is something money can’t buy.