2020 Special Report on Fishing


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 and 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.