New RBFF Research Shows First-Time Anglers are Two Times More Likely to Lapse than Repeat Anglers

ALEXANDRIA, VA – First-time anglers are two times more likely to lapse out of fishing than repeat anglers, according to new research from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) released this week at the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) Annual Meeting. The analysis, which was conducted in partnership with Southwick Associates, looked at license sales data in 36 states. The findings highlight the importance of retention efforts and will help RBFF shape future state marketing programs to increase fishing license sales.

“There are a significant number of people who lapse out of fishing each year,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “We took a close look at both first-time and repeat anglers to identify and characterize their differences, so we can better target our messaging to these audiences, and keep them engaged in fishing.”


  • First-time anglers are two times more likely to lapse than repeat anglers, with renewal rates of 31% and 68% respectively.
  • First-time anglers are more likely than repeat anglers to be: younger, female, Hispanic, live in metro and urban communities and have families with young children.
  • Nearly 80% of first-time anglers purchased an annual fishing license in 2012.
  • On average, repeat anglers spend 47% more annually than first-time anglers on fishing licenses, tags and permits.

“If we can convert first-time anglers to repeat anglers, we can have a significant positive impact on fishing license sales and revenue for state conservation and wildlife management efforts,” added Peterson.

RBFF is conducting additional research to gain further insights into first-time license buyers’ preferences and motivations to develop an effective retention strategy that will compel first-time anglers to renew their license. Additional findings will be shared in December in conjunction with RBFF’s State Marketing Workshop and in March at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference.

The full report is available on