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Recreational Fishing Participation Continues Long-Term Growth Trend Following Record Pandemic Year

Recreational Fishing Participation Continues Long-Term Growth Trend Following Record Pandemic Year

2022 Special Report on Fishing data shows 4.5% increase in participation between 2019 and 2021, and almost 15% overall increase since 2015

An ever-increasing number of Americans continue to pursue recreational fishing as a source of enjoyment and a remedy for stress and anxiety, according to new data from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation's (RBFF) 2022 Special Report on Fishing.


52.4 million Americans fished in 2021, marking an increase of 2.2 million in the last two years and 7 million since the positive trend that began in 2015. The latest total represents only a slight decrease from the record 54.7 million participants in 2020 as more Americans adapted their lives in the past year to continue to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.


Fishing participation has grown in part due to industry efforts to increase overall racial and gender diversity while also appealing to younger anglers and their families. As a result:

  • 12.9 million youth (ages 6-17) went fishing in 2021, up 2.8% over 2019.
  • 4.7 million Hispanics fished in 2021, up slightly from 2019. 19.4 million women went fishing in 2021, up slightly from 2019.
  • 4.1 million Black Americans participated in fishing and boating in 2021, a 10.8% increase from 3.7 million in 2020.
  • 86% of current fishing participants fished before the age of 12, demonstrating the critical importance of introducing fishing at a young age.

"The growth of recreational fishing in 2020 was one of the few silver linings to come from the COVID-19 pandemic, and even as American life normalizes, we continue to see more new faces embracing the sport," said RBFF President & CEO Dave Chanda. "We’re thrilled to see more than 52 million Americans went fishing last year, marking a long-term growth trend and supporting critical conservation efforts, all while furthering our commitment of making the water open to everyone.”


Throughout the pandemic, mental health has remained a pressing concern for Americans. The 2022 Special Report on Fishing shows Americans primarily fished to enjoy the splendor of nature while escaping the usual demands of life. Take Me Fishing™ aims to contribute to mental health by empowering people of all ages, genders, and cultures to enjoy the wellness benefits that can be realized in the outdoors.


“We are proud to see the positive impact fishing, boating and other outdoor activities is having on Americans’ mental health,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for RBFF. “We are hopeful that outdoor activities, specifically fishing and boating, will become a trusted remedy for mental health in the future, and that more people feel included and represented within the greater outdoor activities landscape.”


Take Me Fishing™ continues to march toward their goal of encouraging Americans of all backgrounds to participate in fishing and boating and feel represented on the water.


The 2022 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 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.



RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase recreational angling and boating participation, thereby protecting and restoring the nation's aquatic natural resources. RBFF's 60 in 60 effort strives to attract 60 million anglers to the sport by the end of 2021. To help recruit, retain and reactivate participants, RBFF developed the award-winning Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ campaigns to build awareness of boating, fishing, and conservation and educate people about the benefits of participation.


The campaign websites feature how-to-videos and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots, helping boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan, and equip for a successful day on the water.


RBFF also offers its industry stakeholders many tools including a Fishing License & Boat Registration Plugin to connect their customers with the information they need in just one click, as well as an embeddable Places to Fish & Boat Map to help their customers discover places to fish and boat near them.

For further information: Bruna Carincotte, bcarincotte@rbff.org, 202-743-9894