Following two decades of steady decline in fishing participation, the trend began turning around in 2006, according to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, a report produced very five years. In fact, participation increased nationally by 11 percent.
In Kentucky, that improvement is reflected by an 8 percent increase in fishing license sales during 2012, with at least some of the credit due to implementation of the Fishing in Neighborhoods (FINs) program in 2006 by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR).
Partnering with local governments, the state stocked rainbow trout and catfish in six lakes to provide city dwellers with safe, convenient access to fishing. Today, the program has grown to 39 lakes in 24 counties, with 142,000 trout and 111,000 catfish stocked in 2013.
“In addition to these lakes being stocked with catfish and trout, the sunfish and bass populations are regularly sampled to ensure natural reproduction is meeting the needs of anglers,” KDFWR said. “Stocking of hybrid sunfish and/or largemouth bass occurs if needed.”
Nearly half the states have adopted similar urban fishing programs, in an attempt to attract more urban and suburban participants, especially women, and, as in Kentucky, the strategy seems to be effective.
KDFWR’s Brian Clark pointed out that urban households are not as connected to the land and typically don’t have readily available angling opportunities, as do those who live in rural settings. “It’s just not as natural a pastime,” he said.
According to a 2013 report, Exploring Increases in Hunting and Fishing Participation, both new and returning anglers are “slightly more often female, are markedly more often retired with new free time, are slightly more often identifying themselves as homemakers, slightly more suburban . . . and are more devoted to fishing in freshwater.”
The report also theorized that the prolonged slowdown in the economy has prompted more people to fish and hunt for food. Related to that, more people are looking for natural food sources. Additionally, military personnel returning home could have contributed to the increase in participation.