Press Releases

New Research Reveals Freshwater Fishing Participation Up
Special report provides key insights into boating and fishing participation patterns and the latest demographic information
2010 Special Report on Fishing and Boating

ALEXANDRIA, VA (July 14, 2010) – The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) today revealed new boating and fishing research at the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades (ICAST) in Las Vegas, Nev. The 2010 Special Report on Fishing and Boating, conducted by RBFF and The Outdoor Foundation, provides detailed information on participation by gender, age, ethnicity, income, education and geographic region. The report revealed that of the 48 million anglers in the United States, 41 million are participating in freshwater fishing, an increase of two percent from last year. Other key findings include: (1) Fishing is recognized as the top “gateway” activity, spurring involvement in other outdoor interests; (2) Nearly 10 million outdoor enthusiasts are considering boat ownership; (3) ‘Next-gen’ anglers, those under 18 years of age, make up more than 23 percent of all fishing participants.

“Although overall participation is down slightly from 2008, we’re delighted to see that freshwater fishing, which is by far the most popular type of fishing in the U.S., has been able to reverse a two-year downward trend into a one-year positive increase in participation,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “This Special Report is full of valuable information to help stakeholders shape their future marketing and education programs.”



  • 7.3 percent of all Americans over age 16 (approximately 20.5 million) own a boat. 
  • Bass boats are the most popular boat type at 18.6 percent, followed by deck/pontoon at 14.5 percent.
  • The majority of owners (78.5 percent) own only one boat. Nearly 50 percent of boaters purchased their boat new, and of those, 87.2 percent purchased from dealerships. Those buying used boats sourced them primarily from friends and newspaper ads. 
  • In 2009, more than 50 million participants (17.9 percent of Americans) age 16 and older went boating. This resulted in a total of 705 million boating days in 2009, with 21 average annual days spent on the water.
  • After cruising, fishing from a boat is the second most popular boating activity.


  • In 2009, fishing participants made 996 million outings (down slightly from one billion in 2008).
  • More than 45 percent of fishing participants say the economy impacts how often they participate in outdoor activities. More than 85 percent of those fishing participants plan to spend more time participating in outdoor activities in 2010.
  • Freshwater fishing is most popular among young people, with more than 22.5 percent participation under the age of 18 (down slightly from 24.6 percent in 2008). 
  • The largest age bracket of saltwater fishing participants is over the age of 45, making up 48.1 percent of all participants.
  • Fly fishing has significant growth opportunities across a number of demographics, particularly females (25.2 percent of participants), minority groups (21.5 percent of participants), and youth (16.1 percent of participants).

Hispanic Participation

  • 13.6 percent of Hispanics over the age of six fish – more than 70 percent are male.
  • In 2009, Hispanic fishing participants made more than 62 million annual outings (up from 45.8 million in 2008).
  • Hispanic youth ages six to 12 have the highest participation rate among all age groups (17.4 percent).

Youth Participation

  • There are 11.2 million fishing participants ages six to 17, unchanged from 2008.
  • Youth participation in fishing drops from 25.4 percent among those ages six to 12 to 19 percent among those ages 13 to 17. Time, other sports/activities, schoolwork, TV and video games are cited as barriers.
  • Female participation in fishing falls significantly more than males through adolescence, down 44 percent as opposed to 12.9 percent.

RBFF worked with The Outdoor Foundation to launch a major youth outdoors movement last month in New York City’s Central Park, where 500 youth delegates convened to discuss ways to motivate more kids to spend time outside. Among the ideas and results: Make outdoor classes a requirement in schools; Provide local opportunities for outdoor jobs and careers; Promote safer parks with free events and youth programs; Partner with universities to provide internship credits for students who help educate, provide recreation experiences and mentor the youth on outdoor issues; Create a social norm that moves away from electronic companionship and moves toward outdoor experiences.

“The future of any sport lies in engaging its youngest members, so reaching individuals in their early years is critical,” said The Outdoor Foundation Executive Director Christine Fanning. “The Special Report includes some important insights to motivating not only youth, but also adult participation in fishing and boating.”

The methodology and full study is available online at

About 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 helps people discover, share and protect the legacy of boating and fishing through national outreach programs including the Take Me Fishing™ campaign and Anglers' Legacy™.