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RBFF report: New anglers in USA are younger, urban and from more diverse backgrounds


The boom in fishing participation in the past year has prompted the early release of a key report to help the industry engage with and retain new anglers.

The report, from the Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation (RBFF), will reveal that 55 million Americans, aged six and over, went fishing in 2020. The rise is largely due to more than five million new and returning anglers who are younger, more diverse and live in urban areas. This demographic accounted for 10% growth in participation last year as the sport gave people an outlet during COVID restrictions.

The RBFF’s 2021 Special Report on Fishing also identifies substantial gains in key segments, including youth, women and diverse audiences. “Fishing, like all other outdoor activities, clearly benefited from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said RBFF Senior Vice President of Marketing & Communications Stephanie Vatalaro.

However, the skilful execution of marketing campaigns pre-COVID has allowed fishing and boating to rise to the top of the consideration set for consumers looking for outdoor activities. “Last year was the perfect storm for fishing participation, and consumer sentiment is prime for continued growth in 2021,” said Vatalaro.

However, lapsed anglers remain a problem, says the report. In 2020, 8.8 million dropped out of the sport as a troubling three-year trend continued. The group is made up largely of over-55s who say that lack of time, cost, interest in other outdoor activities and lack of access to waters are the main reasons for them lapsing. “The industry needs to plug this leaky bucket to realise our goal of reaching 60 million anglers by the end of 2021,” added Vatalaro.

The RBFF will continue to release new data before the full report is made available in early summer. Other key findings include:
• Fishing participation rate rose to 18% of the U.S. population – the highest in over a decade
• Youth participation grew 53% to 13.5 million
• Hispanic particiaption was at an all-time high of 4.8 million, a 13% increase from 2019
• First-time participants climbed to 4.4 million (up from 3.1 million)
• 19.7 million female anglers represented 36% of total participants, a 10% increase and an all-time high
• Reactivated anglers soared to 9 million (compared to 6.8 million last year)

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