The overall number of fishing participants remains quite stable from year to year, at around 33 million, but not because most anglers are avid. Rather it’s because about the same number of people joins and leaves the angling population each year.
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 limited 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 the American Sportfishing Association and Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. 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.
Other highlights include:
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.