Alexandria, VA – Not many activities offer as many opportunities for tranquil relaxation or exhilarating surges of adrenaline, but both types of experiences have about equal appeal when it comes to fishing. This, and other motivational factors, are illuminated in the third report in a series examining sportfishing “churn,” a term that refers to anglers’ transitioning in and out of the sport from year to year.
Produced for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) by Southwick Associates, the series sheds new light on anglers’ fishing habits and loyalty to the sport. The latest installment, The New Anglers – Who Are They? Why Did They Try? Will They Continue?, produced in partnership with Responsive Management, focuses on those new to the sport or trying it again after a long hiatus.
“We’ve found that newcomers have high expectations about how often they will fish when they first begin, but reality shows they drop out at high rates,” said ASA President and CEO Mike Nussman, referring to the fact that 46 percent anglers in recent years do not fish the following year.
Nussman further said, “At first glance, this implies their experiences may not have met their expectations, or other activities are winning their attention. The findings in this series of six reports are meant to help improve efforts to attract more anglers and keep them fishing.”
As the first report in the series uncovered, the overall number of fishing participants remains quite stable from year to year, at around 46 million (which takes into account youth age 16 years and under), but not because most anglers are out there on the water. Rather it’s because about the same number of people join and leave the angling population each year.
And since that come-and-go contingent is a big proportion of the 46 million, it’s of great significance to the sportfishing community’s efforts to boost participation. State fisheries agencies and the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) are taking the lead for the broader sportfishing community on a strategy called “R3,” which includes targeted marketing toward recruiting, retaining and reactivating anglers, categories that refer to participation from year to year.
“With recruited and reactivated anglers making up more than 40 percent of all fishing license holders in any given year, there’s huge potential to grow participation, tackle sales and angler-generated conservation funding if those millions of newcomers keep fishing year to year,” noted Nussman.
ASA also has another report available that specifically addresses the activities that compete for anglers’ attention – On the Fence: Why Anglers Lapse and Fishing’s Competition.
The third report, The New Anglers – Who Are They? Why Did They Try? Will They Continue?, takes a closer look at various demographic groups among recruited anglers vs. retained ones. It also examines motivational and other factors influencing people’s decisions related to fishing.
Younger, female urban dwellers are more likely to be among the ranks of newly recruited anglers compared to retained anglers, who are much more likely to be male, rural residents, and over 35 years of age. Yet over the long term, there has been minimal shift in the overall angler population towards those newcomer demographics due to the higher churn rates among them.
More than 80 percent of recruited anglers reported having fished previously in their lives, typically when they were quite young. They are frequently prompted to fish by family and friends, who also serve as their most common source of fishing information and instruction.
These and other findings related to motivational factors tend to reassert previous research from ASA and RBFF. However, this report reveals significant differences between new anglers’ intentions and their actions; while the vast majority think they will fish every year, only a small proportion actually do.
- Women make up one-third of new anglers. When it comes to recruited anglers, 65 percent are male and 35 percent are female. However, only 18 percent of retained anglers are female.
- Newcomers are younger. More than one-half of recruited anglers are under age 35, compared to 28 percent of retained anglers. Conversely, only 12 percent of recruited anglers are between the ages of 55 and 64, compared to 22 percent of retained anglers.
- Recruited anglers tend to live in more populous communities. The largest portion of recruited anglers, about 47 percent, lives in suburban neighborhoods. However, the proportion of recruited anglers between the ages of 18-24 years is greatest in rural areas while the proportion of recruited anglers between the ages of 25-34 years is greatest in urban areas.
- Recreational togetherness is a strong appeal. The top three reasons people fish are to spend time with family and friends, to relax, and for the sport or recreation. For new recruits, the opportunity for relaxation is a strong driver while avid anglers tend to be in it for the excitement.
- Age of introduction matters. More than 80 percent of recruited anglers in the survey year reported it was not the first year they’d ever fished. Among those, more than a third tried the sport when they were five years old or younger. In fact, more than half of anglers who fish year after year say they first started fishing when they were five years old or younger.
- Others’ influence is strong. The majority of both recruited and retained anglers say their parents had the most influence on their interest in fishing and their learning. Other factors that commonly prompted participation were an invitation from a friend or relative and a desire to spend time outdoors.
- Intentions don’t match up with actions. More than three-quarters of recruited anglers think they will go fishing each year over the next five years; however, less than 10 percent are likely to do so.
Southwick Associates compiled and studied fishing license data over a 10-year period, from 2004-2013, and a five-year period, from 2009- 2013, from 12 states (CO, FL, GA, ME, MI, MN, MS, MT, NH, NY, UT, and WI) to provide a regionally and nationally representative portrait of anglers for this and future reports in the series. Responsive Management then followed with telephone surveys of current and former anglers to gain qualitative insights about their intentions and motivations.