RBFF debuts 2021 Special Report on Fishing

Recreational fishing and boating continues to reach new and diverse audiences according to a new industry study from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF).

The 2021 Special Report on Fishing found that:

  • 19.7 million females went fishing in 2020, a 10% participation increase in comparison with 2019. 
  • Youth and adolescent fishing skyrocketed last year, with 13.5 million youth ages 6 to 17 hitting the water.
  • 5 million Hispanic Americans went fishing in 2020, the highest recorded volume in 14 years.
  • Overall participation continues to increase, with nearly 55 million Americans fishing at least once last year.
  • African Americans have had the highest participation rate in the last three years, with a 7.4% increase in participation and 14.6% growth since 2019.
  • More than 55% of people who have tried fishing intend to continue the activity in 2021.

"Last year was definitely unique, but this increased interest in fishing is a trend we've seen in the making for a while," said Stephanie Vatalaro, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for RBFF. "First time fishing participants climbed to 4.4 million in 2020. This 42% increase is phenomenal, and as the data shows these new participants are more diverse than ever, helping to confirm that the water is open to everyone."

The new Special Report data comes following a year when Americans' interest in fishing peaked as a remedy for COVID-19-related stress and anxiety. The pandemic also offered a unique opportunity for people interested in other outdoor activities. The study found fishing to have the highest cross-over participation in 2020 as 81% of fishing participants reported enjoying many other outdoor activities outside fishing.

"We are thrilled to see so many new and returning anglers enjoying our nation's waters. Anglers have always been a force for conservation, and we appreciate their continued support to sustain aquatic resources for future generations," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. "We are focused on inviting a larger and more diverse community of engaged anglers to become stewards of our cherished natural resources."

The study also showed spending time with family still top of mind for fishing participation (51.3%) and more than 55% of people intend to continue fishing this year.

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To continue to increase the popularity of fishing and boating among new and diverse audiences, RBFF launched a public service initiative, Get On Board, in partnership with Discover Boating. This effort aims to grow awareness of how anyone can support their wellness and mental health on the water. RBFF is an industry leader in many initiatives that empower diversity and inclusion, including:

With the increase in diversity and youth participation comes a collective voice for conservation. Catch and release was the most prominent practice across all types of fishing in 2020, showing an amplified interest in maintenance of waterways while enjoying time on the water.

The Special Report on Fishing was created in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation and provides one of the most comprehensive looks at the state of U.S. fishing and take out boating  participation. The full report, along with an accompanying infographic, is available at TakeMeFishing.org/SpecialReport. The website also features beginner resources, including how-to guides for getting started and an interactive map of places to fish and boat, as well as links to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

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