Special Report Spotlight: Trends by Type of Fishing

According to the 2021 Special Report on Fishing, fishing added 4.6 million anglers in 2020. These numbers show a steady increase in fishing interest around the country. Freshwater fishing is still the most popular type of fishing with 42.6 million participants, while saltwater and fly fishing follow behind with 14.5 million and 7.8 million anglers, respectively. With 2020 experiencing the lowest recorded rate of anglers participating in multiple types of fishing (just 19%), examining participation trends by type of fishing can be beneficial when developing strategies and tactics to attract and retain anglers in 20201. Though all three types of fishing achieved their highest number of participants in a decade, they grew in different ways:


Hispanic Participation

  • Saltwater fishing had the highest percentage of Hispanic participants with 13%
    • Fly fishing had 11%, and freshwater fishing had 8%
  • The share of Hispanic participation in freshwater fishing has grown an average of 4% annually over the past three years
  • Fly fishing experienced a 1.3% decrease in percentage of Hispanic participation


Female Participation

  • Freshwater had the highest percentage of female participation with 36%
  • With just 30% of participants identifying as female, fly fishing has averaged a 1.4% decline in rate of female participation over the past three years
    • Saltwater fishing has averaged a 1.6% growth over the same period, reaching 32% female participation in 2020


Annual Outings

  • Freshwater fishing participants averaged 16 annual outings for a total of 677 million
  • Saltwater participants averaged 13 outings a year, totaling 195 million
  • While fly fishing had the lowest average of outings (12.5), it experienced the highest rate of increase (14.4%) in number of outings during 2020


Geographic Region

  • The South Atlantic region accounted for the highest participation across all three styles of fishing
    • Almost 36% of all fly fishing anglers came from the South Atlantic
  • The rate of fly fishing in the Mountains region has grown an average of 5.7% over the past three years, the highest rate of growth amongst all types of fishing and regions
    • The region’s share of participation in freshwater fishing has grown an average of 1.1% in freshwater fishing and declined an average of 2% during the same time


In an effort to recruit new participants and encourage anglers to explore all types of fishing, provides resources, guides and more:

Saltwater Fishing Basics & Info

Freshwater Fishing Basics & Info

Essential Fly Fishing Information



This project was organized and funded by the RBFF through a USFWS financial assistance award (#F18AC00145).