Angler Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation

Summary

Participation in recreational fishing has plateaued since its peak in the late 1980’s. While the number of anglers in the United States has stagnated, the proportion of Americans who regularly fish has steadily declined. It is imperative that an effort be made to protect our angling traditions and the vital conservation funding that they generate.

Introduction

Participation in recreational fishing has plateaued since its peak in the late 1980’s. While the number of anglers in the United States has stagnated, the proportion of Americans who regularly fish has steadily declined. Recent certified license data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service suggest that there are approximately 28.4 million anglers in the United States today, or 8.87% of the population. In 1988, anglers represented approximately 13% of the U.S. population – over 31 million people. Fishing license sales generate critical funding each year for wildlife conservation and habitat restoration, while angler expenditures generate billions of dollars annually for the national economy and support hundreds of thousands of jobs. The decline in the proportion of Americans who fish poses an ever increasing threat to wildlife conservation and management. 

Anglers make a significant contribution to the U.S. economy, spending $61.7 billion every year. Anglers’ economic activity supports more than 828,000 jobs and generates $8 billion in federal tax revenue – enough to pay the salaries of 410,000 privates in the U.S. Army. Most importantly, however, anglers contribute heavily to the American System of Conservation Funding. Sales of fishing licenses, coupled with excise taxes on rods, reels, bait, motorboat fuel, and a wide variety of fishing and boating-related expenditures has contributed $7.3 billion to sport fish restoration programs since 1952. State fish and wildlife agencies are the primary managers of our nation’s fish and wildlife resources and monies generated by anglers in 2016 provided on average 83% of the funding for all state freshwater fisheries and aquatic habitat management.

In an effort to preserve the angling tradition in the United States, state fish and wildlife agencies, sport fishing and boating conservation organizations, and the fishing industry have invested in recruitment, retention and reactivation initiatives. Initiatives like the “Fishing Buddy” program in New Jersey allow anglers to purchase licenses at a reduced price for those who have either never bought a fishing license, or have not bought one for several years. Wildlife agencies in other states have published long-term recruitment plans, and sport fishing NGOs have conducted in-depth studies of current recruitment and retention trends.

Points of Interest

  • It is imperative that an effort be made to protect our angling traditions and the vital conservation funding that they generate.
  • Fishing appreciation programs in schools and programs to facilitate recruitment and reactivation are key to maintaining and increasing the number of American anglers.
  • The proportion of Americans who fish peaked at 12.8% in 1988, when 31.5 million fishing licenses were sold. In 2015, 28.4 million licenses were sold, suggesting that 8.8% of Americans now fish – a decline of 31%. In the same time period, the population of the United States increased by 30%.
  • Die-hard anglers are a small group: Out of the pool of roughly 30 million people who fish each year, only four percent purchase a fishing license every year.

Moving Forward

Development and use of partnerships and strategic models must continue to be utilized to reverse stagnating participation in angling. Numerous tools exists that may be able to reverse this trend, including implementation of mentee fishing licenses, media outreach, and fishing appreciation programs in schools, among many others. Additionally, protecting and expanding access to public waters should remain a priority. State legislators are encouraged to work with their state fish and wildlife agencies to ensure that state-level programs are designed and implemented to reach new audiences and mentor potential recruits to join the angling community, in addition to retaining current anglers.

Contact

For more information regarding this issue, please contact:
Chris Horton (501) 865-1475; chris@sportsmenslink.org

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