Press Releases

New Research Shows Fishing Participation Up
Special report reveals decrease in participation churn rate for first time in years

ALEXANDRIA, VA (June 28, 2012) – Fishing remains the most popular recreational activity in the country with more and more people trying out the sport every day according to a new study released this month by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) and The Outdoor Foundation. According to the 2012 Special Report on Fishing and Boating, for the first time in the history of the report, fishing added more participants (8.8 million) than it lost (eight million), bringing the total of Americans who fished to 46.2 million, or 16.2 percent of the population.

”We’re extremely pleased to see for the first time in several years, more people coming into the sport than dropping out,” said RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. “This indicates our efforts are positively influencing participation, enticing newcomers and past participants to get out on the water.”

“Fishing and boating are among the most important ‘gateway’ activities that often lead people, especially youth, to pursue other recreation experiences,” said Christine Fanning, Executive Director of the Outdoor Foundation. “We’re thrilled to partner, once again, with the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation on this important research project.”

The fourth annual report provides detailed information on boating and fishing participation by gender, age ethnicity, income, education and geographic region.


Fishing Participating

  • In 2011, 46.2 million Americans participated in fishing (an increase from 45.4 million in 2010).
  • While eight million participants stopped fishing, 8.8 million former or new participants joined the sport, netting an increase in overall participation.
  • Although the number of fishing participants increased, the number of fishing outings decreased (average of 18.2 days fishing in 2011 compared to average of 20.4 days fishing in 2010).
  • Females and youths ages six to 12 added the most new fishing participants.
  • Adults 18 and older with children in their households participate in fishing at higher levels than adults without children.
  • Findings also indicate that fly fishing has the greatest amount of interest among newcomers, while saltwater fishing holds the interest of participants from youth through adolescence.

Hispanic American Fishing Participation

  • 3.1 million Hispanic Americans participated in fishing in 2011 – a slight decrease from 3.4 million in 2010.
  • Freshwater fishing is, by far, the most popular type of fishing among Hispanic Americans.
  • Hispanic Americans fish the most often out of any fishing category or demographic group, averaging 20 fishing days per year.

Youth Fishing Participation

  • Typical of outdoor activities, fishing participation rates peak between the ages of six and 12 and then decrease during the adolescent years from 13 to 17. 
  • 81.8 percent of fishing participants ages six to 12 are introduced to outdoor activities by their parents.
  • Almost 44 percent of youth fishing participants ages six to 17 also participate in boating.

Boating Participation

  • The average number of outings per boater increased from 13.2 annual outings in 2010, to 14 annual outings in 2011.
  • Fishing from a boat is the most popular activity among males over the age of 16 with 64 percent participation.
  • Multispecies boats surpassed bass boat as the most popular boat type at 26 percent for multispecies, followed by bass boat at 16.3 percent.
  • The social aspect of boating is notable with 63% of boating participants reporting they get on the water with friends.

“Increased participation leads to increased fishing license sales and boat registration renewals, both key sources for funding state fish and wildlife conservation, and boating infrastructure programs,” added Peterson. “We hope to keep the momentum going so the joys of fishing and boating can be experienced by generations to come.”

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™.

For further information: Elizabeth Bender (RBFF), 703-519-6917, Stasia Raines (Outdoor Foundation), 619-957-9891,