46 million people went fishing in 2015

Fishing remains among the most popular outdoor activities for adults, according to the 2016 Special Report on Fishing released today by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and the Outdoor Foundation at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades Show (ICAST) in Orlando. The report reveals that more than 2.5 million people had their very first fishing experience in 2015, and a total of 45.7 million Americans (15.6 percent of the U.S. population) participated in fishing.

“We are pleased to see many positive trends in this report such as increases for first-time, youth and Hispanic participants,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “Previous research tells us 126 million people have tried fishing, but with only 46 million actively participating, we have a big opportunity in front of us. The insights from this research will help RBFF and the fishing/boating industries ensure future growth for the sport, and the state conservation efforts that rely on it.”

“Recreational fishing is an essential piece of America’s outdoor tradition, often leading children to a love of the outdoors and a healthy, active lifestyle,” said Chris Fanning, executive director of the Outdoor Foundation. “We hope this report will help the fishing industry – and the entire outdoor industry – engage young fishing participants and ultimately create the next generation of passionate outdoor enthusiasts.”

The eighth annual report details fishing participation by gender, age, ethnicity, income, education and geography.


  • Newcomers
    • 5 million people had their very first fishing experience in 2015 – up 4 percent from 2014
    • 44 percent of new participants are youth ages 6-17; 46 percent are female
  • Popular
    • Fishing is the second most popular outdoor activity for adults ages 25+, behind running/jogging/trail running.
    • 76 percent of fishing participants ages 6+ participate in fishing and another outdoor activity
    • Freshwater fishing remains the most popular type of fishing – almost 38 million people – and also had the highest rates of female (34.4 percent) and youth participants (33 percent).
  • Family-Friendly
    • Adults with children in their households participated in fishing at higher levels than those without (18.7 percent vs. 13.3 percent).
  • Youth
    • Youth participation saw a 2 percent increase overall in 2015, with 6.7 million participants, ages 6 to 12, and 4 million participants, ages 13 to 17.
    • Almost 83 percent of participants fished as a child, making youth participation a powerful motivator for future participation.
  • Hispanics
    • The number of Hispanic fishing participants increased 3 percent in 2015 to 3.4 million.
    • Hispanic participants spend 6.2 more days per year fishing than their general market counterparts.

In addition to overall trends in participation, the report also looks at barriers, motivating factors and preferences of key groups, along with opportunities for engaging new audiences.

To download the report, visit RBFF’s Resource Center.

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