More than 1 million anglers — about 20 percent of the state’s population — wet a line each year in Minnesota. But a comprehensive new national survey on fishing underscores its importance on a national level, and includes some fascinating details and trends, including the demographics of new anglers taking up the sport.
Almost 46 million Americans, or 15.8 percent of the population, fished in 2013, according to the survey by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and the Outdoor Foundation, both nonprofit groups that promote fishing.
The bad news: For the first time since 2010, more people left the sport than joined. The survey showed 8.7 million new or former anglers joined and 9.9 million left, a decline of 1.2 million.
“The number of newcomers coming into fishing is very strong, but they’re coming in and lapsing out for some reason,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, director of communications for the Boating and Fishing Foundation.
Women make up 42 percent of first-time anglers, the biggest group of newcomers, but they also are dropping out at the highest rate.
“We need to learn why that is happening,” Vatalaro said.
The good news from the survey: More women and Hispanics are fishing and officials are hopeful of growing their numbers. Thirty-six percent of potential anglers are ethnically diverse, compared to the 27 percent of current anglers.
Hispanics are a target for state agencies and the fishing industry. They make up 17 percent of the nation’s population — the largest and fastest-growing ethnic minority — but only 7.7 percent of anglers. Currently, 73 percent of anglers are white, 10 percent are black, 8 percent are Hispanic and 4.5 percent are Asian or Pacific Islander.
Fourteen percent of Hispanics fish, or about 3.5 million.
Vatalaro said her group developed a five-year plan to engage Hispanics in fishing and boating and launched a pilot campaign in Texas and Florida. A new website, vamosapescar.org (“vamos a pescar” is “let’s go fishing” in Spanish), aims to help Hispanics learn more about fishing and boating.
Meanwhile, the survey, done annually since 2006, paints a portrait of anglers. Some highlights:
• 66 percent of anglers are male, 34 percent are female.
• 56 percent have attended college; 58 percent earn more than $50,000.
• Almost 78 percent of anglers participate in other outdoor activities.
• 35 percent of anglers camp, 31 percent bike, 23 percent view wildlife or bird watch, 21 percent hunt and 20 percent paddle.
• 46 percent of anglers travel just 15 to 30 minutes from home to fish.
• A sign of the times: While 52 percent don’t use mobile electronics during their outdoor recreation, 27 percent use smartphones and 22 percent use a music player.
• Freshwater fishing was by far the most popular, with about 38 million Americans, or 13 percent, participating. But that’s the lowest total since 2006. Twelve million anglers saltwater fish.
• Participation in fishing as a young person is critical to participation later in life because 84 percent of adult anglers fished as children.
• Fishing participation is high among children 6 to 12, then falls among those 13 to 17. Last year, 29 percent of males ages 6 to 12 fished; 16 percent of females that age fished.
• More than 80 percent of anglers caught fish their last outing. Thirty-nine percent ate their catch, 37 percent released it.
• For male anglers, the best things about fishing are catching fish, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature and getting away from the usual demands of life. Female anglers generally agree, but spending time with family and friends also ranks high.
• Male and female anglers agree the worst thing about fishing is not catching any fish.
• Some 5.9 million people fly fish, the least popular of the fishing types. But it attracts the most educated anglers: More than 42 percent have a college or postgraduate degree, and almost 37 percent are minorities.
• 63 percent of fly anglers are white, 14 percent are black, and 12 percent are Hispanic.