Press Releases

Fishing Participation Continues to Rise
2020 Special Report on Fishing provides demographic insights, churn rate, perceptions of fishing and more

ALEXANDRIA, VA (July 15, 2020)  Today the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) announced the findings of the 2020 Special Report on Fishing, noting participation is still on the rise. The Outdoor Foundation and RBFF-produced report, now in its 10th year, provides insights into demographics, the “leaky bucket,” perceptions of fishing and more.


“Thanks to the strong improvements in recruitment and reactivation, fishing participation is up again this year,” said RBFF President & CEO Frank Peterson. “Better yet, the key audience segments we feel are tantamount to the future of fishing continue to see gains in overall participation and participation rate.”



  • Participation is up to the highest rate since 2007.
    • 17% of the total U.S. population participated in fishing in 2019.
    • That equates to a total of 50.1 million Americans ages 6+.
      • A net increase of more than 700,000 participants.
  • 3.1 million Americans tried fishing for the very first time in 2019, making up 6% of all active participants
  • Youth participation is up over the last years.
  • Hispanic participation continues to rise – 4.4 million participated in 2019.
    • Participation rate of 12%, the highest ever recorded in the Special Report.
    • Hispanics go on an average of nearly three more trips per year than the general population.
  • Female participation grew to 17.9 million.
    • Third straight year of growth.
    • The gender gap is continuing to close.
  • “Leaky bucket” still an issue.
    • Fishing lost 9.3 million participants in 2019 - a loss of 19% of the 2018 participant base – and nearly double the 5.6 million lost participants in 2017.


Peterson continued, “Despite losing 9.3 million participants, fishing is still making gains. We are pleased with the increases among newcomers and key growth segments but are again reminded of how important effective angler retention efforts are in safeguarding the future of fishing and boating. To that end, we are continually working on ways to keep participants better engaged, including developing programs and resources for our state agency and industry partners, as well as assisting them in developing their own R3 plans.”


In addition to demographic and participation-related data, the Special Report also looked at intangibles such as perceptions of fishing and trends that can help our industry predict and shape the future of participation. Overwhelmingly, anglers look to fishing as a way to escape the day-to-day, become close with nature, and of course, catch fish. While survey respondents didn’t hold strong stereotypes of anglers, more men than women feel that fishing participants look similar to them. Prioritizing youth participation continues to be a theme in preserving the future of fishing; 91% of currently anglers first participated before the age of 12.


The 2020 Special Report on Fishing is available for free to all RBFF stakeholders and can help serve as a guide to develop marketing and communications plans to reach out to and engage new and existing participants.


The RBFF Online Fishing License Assessment was conducted with MarketViewpoint, a mystery shopping company and is a follow-up to the original Online Fishing License Assessment, which was carried out in 2012. MarketViewpoint directed mystery shoppers to search for and purchase an annual fishing license in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia via a mobile device. The full report, including comparisons to the original assessment, are available in the RBFF Resource Center.



About the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF)
RBFF is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, thereby protecting and restoring the nation's aquatic natural resources. RBFF's recently announced 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 creating awareness about boating, fishing and conservation, and educating people about the benefits of participation. These campaigns help boaters and anglers of all ages and experience levels learn, plan and equip for a day on the water. The campaign websites, and, feature how-to videos, information on how to get a fishing license and boat registration, and an interactive state-by-state map that allows visitors to find local boating and fishing spots.