FERNANDINA BEACH, FL. – While the total number of anglers who enjoy fishing remains fairly consistent year-in and year-out, the number of anglers who actually bought a license in ten consecutive years remains amazingly small -four percent of the approximate 33 million anglers in the United States to be exact.This was the startlingly discovery revealed by a recent study conducted for the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) by Southwick Associates.
“The fact that overall fishing participation numbers are quite stable from year to year could lead to the erroneous conclusion that anglers consistently renew their licenses,” stated Tom Allen, Vice President of Research at Southwick Associates. “This is the first in a series of reports to be released on the topic. Upcoming reports will show which types of anglers are at greatest risk of not coming back, how to keep them engaged and lifestyles of various angler segments.”
In the study, Southwick Associates, the nation’s leading researcher in outdoor economics and recreational market statistics, examined fishing license data over a 10-year period, from 2004 to 2013, from 12 states. Those states included Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Mississippi, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Utah, and Wisconsin. The goal was to determine how many anglers transition in and out of the sport from year to year, a phenomenon also known as “churn”.
Key findings of the report, titled “U.S. Angler Population, Who Comes and Who Goes,” included:
- The largest portion of anglers, 49 percent, purchased a license only one out of 10 years.
- Only four percent bought a license in each of the ten years.
- In any given year, close to half of anglers do not renew their fishing licenses.
- The “typical” angler buys a fishing license just 2.9 out of every 10 years.
- When looking at 5-year periods, that number drops to most anglers buying a license just every 2.1 years out of 5.
- Those groups of anglers most likely to lapse each year include female anglers, urban residents and those people between the ages of 18 and 24.
- Forty-four to 48 percent of anglers each year represent a group that had not bought a fishing license the previous year.
So what does this high rate of churn mean for state and federal fishing agencies? Or even the fishing industry as a whole?
For most, it translates into lost dollars as people who would otherwise be considered prime candidates for participating in fishing step away from the sport. These lost dollars not only impact the companies that make boats, tackle, rods and other fishing gear, but also guide services, hotels and local communities that cater to anglers.
“Perhaps the biggest impacts are realized by state game and fish departments who directly lose revenue from lost license sales, along with the lost excise taxes collected in the sale of fishing gear and boat fuels,” says Rob Southwick, president of Southwick Associates. “These monies are used to support fisheries and habitat work, as well as build and maintain sportfishing infrastructure such as of public piers and boat ramps.”
Ultimately, by realizing the reasons to which anglers step away from fishing each year, the ASA hopes to help agencies and other stakeholders develop strategies that will improve fishing interest and access among those groups-young people, women and urban residents-and keep them participating in angling every year.
For copies of the executive summary or the full report, visit the ASA’s website here.