More people fishing, but smaller segment of U.S. population overall

According to the 2019 Special Report on Fishing, there were 17.7 million female anglers in the U.S. in 2018, up more than 6 percent from 2015. Overall, the number of anglers is up slightly but continues to shrink as a percentage of the overall population. File / News Tribune

The number of people fishing across the U.S. went up in 2018, including more women and more minorities than ever before, according to a comprehensive report on angling in America.

The “2019 Special Report on Fishing,” a joint effort of the Outdoor Foundation and the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, polled more than 20,000 people across the U.S, to determine their angling habits. The results estimate that 49.4 million people fished in the U.S. in 2018, the most recent year full data is available for, up 7 percent over the past three years.

But the percentage of all U.S. residents who fish continues to go down because the number of new anglers is not keeping pace with the increase in overall population. About 16.4 percent of all Americans age 6 and older fished in 2018 — about one out of every six people — down from 16.5 percent in 2017 and 18.7 percent in 2007.

More women fishing

Results from the 2019 Special Report on Fishing, also point to 17.7 million female anglers in the U.S., up more than 6 percent from 2015, and some 4.4 million Hispanic anglers, a number double what it was 10 years ago.

Of all kids ages 6-12, some 24.1 percent fished in 2018, a number that has grown slowly over the past three years. That’s the highest participation rate for any age group and would be great news for the fishing industry and the future of fishing — if all those kids kept it up. But many do not.


The study confirmed what industry officials have been seeing recently — lots of new people are trying or re-trying fishing. But those newcomers are barely keeping up with those who have stopped fishing entirely. There were 9.4 million new or returning anglers in 2018, people who didn’t fish in 2017, but an estimated 9.1 million people dropped out of fishing in 2018, for a net gain of 300,000 people.

On average, 18 days fishing per year

Those of us who fish apparently do it fairly often. We made an estimated 833 million outings onto the water in 2018, an average of nearly 18 outings per angler.

About 26 percent of those who fished in 2018 went on just 1-3 fishing outings. Most of us, nearly 37 percent, fish between 4 and 11 times each year. Just over 16 percent fish 12-23 times annually. About 13 percent go a whopping 34-51 times each year. And there's a small subset, 2.5 percent, who fished 104 or more times in 2018.

David Rogers, a spokesman for the foundation, told the News Tribune that the survey numbers seem to track well with overall state license sales data compiled by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The survey, now in its 10th year, indicates that there are about 1.68 anglers for every licensed angler — noting kids and seniors often don’t need to buy a license.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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