Saturday, July 15, 2023

2023 RBFF Report: fly fishing growth is back on!

As is tradition, last week the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation - along with the Outdoor Foundation - released its annual survey of fishing participation in the United States in conjunction with the ICAST fishing trade show.  The 2023 Special Report on Fishing details participation trends in overall fishing, saltwater fishing, fly fishing and other areas of our sport based on licenses, surveys, tackle sales and many other metrics from the previous year (2022).  

The survey counts anyone ages 6 and over who fished at least one time during the calendar year.  After a slight decline in 2021, overall number of anglers increased by 2.1 million, or a 2% increase, to 54.5 million.  Of those, roughly 44 million were conventional anglers.  After nearly a dozen years of "youth movement", the largest age group of conventional fishing was age 65 and over.  

Fly fishing also grew after a slight decline in 2021, meaning that our sport has increased in participation for 11 of the last 12 years, from 5.5 million in 2010 to 7.6 million last year.  What is equally impressive is that more young people are contributing to this growth than other fishing segments, with ages 25-34 and 35-44 making up the bulk of our numbers.

Diversity.  While our sport remains the most male-dominated fishing category, its now only by a slight margin.  In the past 15 years, female participation has increased from 20 percent to 31 percent as of last year.  In fact, more women took up fly fishing last year than men - for the third year in a row.  The number of Hispanics and Black Americans fly fishing continues to grow, now making up 10 percent and 8 percent overall.

Demographics.  Once again, the South Atlantic region (Virginia to Florida) had the highest number of fly anglers, representing 20 percent of the total.  This was followed by the Pacific and Mid-Atlantic regions at 17% and 16%.  Our region - Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma - saw an increase from 10 to 12 percent.  That equates to 912,000 persons who live in these four states, and who fly fished at least once in 2022.