RECREATIONAL FISHING is one of the most popular outdoor activities in the United States. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 42 million youth and adults—13 percent of the U.S. population—go fishing every year. However, the actual number of anglers in this country is, in fact, much higher. A 2007 examination of state fishing license sales conducted on behalf of the American Sportfishing Association and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies found less than 15 percent of Americans who had fished in the previous five years had fished every one of those years. The angler who goes fishing every year is a rare breed. The results of that study begged the question: Why don’t anglers fish every year, and what do they do instead of fishing? The benefits of fishing go well beyond simply the thrill of the catch. Fishing still provides food for the table, as well as fun, relaxation and quality time with family and friends. In these sedentary times, it’s proven that activities—such as fishing—that get us out of the house and into the outdoors are crucial to our physical and mental health. As an added benefit, fishing brings adults and youth alike “up close and personal” with nature engendering an appreciation for our natural resources. In addition, one of the most powerful arguments for sustaining America’s fishing tradition involves the economics of conservation. Anglers buy fishing licenses and pay special excise taxes on every purchase of fishing tackle and boat fuel. These tax revenues account for the largest source of conservation dollars used to fund habitat enhancement, protection and management of game fish—efforts that also benefit nongame species. These funds also provide public access to recreational waters for anglers and non-anglers alike. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, each year more than $1 billion is generated by anglers for fisheries conservation and habitat restoration. To learn more about why some anglers fish some years but not others or drop out of fishing altogether, a study was commissioned by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA) and conducted by Southwick Associates and Responsive Management.
The study used a combination of fishing license data analysis, focus groups and a telephone survey conducted in eight states representing a broad geographic spread and areas experiencing increasing and decreasing fishing license sales. The study also divided anglers into three groups—active anglers who still regularly fish, lapsed anglers who have not fished in recent years and former anglers who no longer fish. The results of this study augment and confirm previous research and marketing recommendations originally produced by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF). This report was intended to delve further into the reasons why many anglers do not buy a license every year and identify the activities anglers do choose in their time away from fishing. For additional recreational fishing market research and methods, visit www.RBFF.org. The detailed findings associated with this report are presented in a technical document available free of charge under Facts and Figures on www.ASAfishing.org