Fifty-five million Americans age 6+ went fishing in 2020 according to preliminary data from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation's (RBFF) 2021 Special Report on Fishing. These five million new and returning anglers, who are younger, more diverse and live in urban areas, represent 10% growth in fishing participation in 2020. In addition to overall participation gains, RBFF saw substantial gains in key segments for growth including youth, women and diverse audiences.
"Fishing, like all other outdoor activities, clearly benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the skillful execution of marketing campaigns pre-COVID has allowed fishing and boating to rise to the top of the consideration set for consumers looking for outdoor activities," said RBFF Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications, Stephanie Vatalaro. "2020 was the perfect storm for fishing participation, and consumer sentiment is prime for continued growth in 2021."
RBFF is releasing participation data early this year to help inform the industry's efforts to engage and retain these new audiences.
2021 SPECIAL REPORT KEY FINDINGS:
- Fishing participation rate rose to 18% of the U.S. population, the highest rate in over a decade
- Youth participation in 2020 grew 53% to 13.5 million total participants
- Hispanics participated at an all-time high with 4.8 million participants, a 13% increase from 2019
- 19.7 million female participants represented a 36% of total participants, an all time high
- Nearly 1.8 million more women went fishing than in the year prior, with a 10% increase
- First- time participants climbed to 4.4 million (up from 3.1 million last year)
- Reactivated participants soared at 9.0 million (compared to 6.8 million last year)
- 88% of current fishing participants fished before the age of 12
Preliminary data also identified a troubling three-year trend among lapsed anglers. In 2020, 8.8 million anglers lapsed out of the sport. This group is primarily made up of Americans age 55+ who cite lack of time, preference for other outdoor activities, cost, loss of interest and lack of access to waterways as the primary reasons they lapsed.
"As an industry, we need to plug our leaky bucket to realize our goal of reaching 60 million anglers by the end of 2021," added Vatalaro.
RBFF will continue to release new fishing participation data over the course of the next several weeks. The full report will be available in early Summer.