Sunday, September 20, 2015

Who’s Going Fishing? New Study Challenges Conventional Wisdom About Angle

Fishing is an American tradition, a youthful diversion, a retirement pastime. U.S. angling participation has remained fairly consistent, and fishing with family mentors is still considered the best way to promote future angling.
But a new study makes surprising claims about who is actually doing the fishing. Of some 33 million American anglers, it says, just 4 percent purchased a fishing license during each of the last 10 years.
The report charts the “churn” rate — the number of anglers who have left the sport compared to those who’ve just started fishing. Researchers found that fishing license sales were steady only because the huge percentage of anglers who failed to consistently buy fishing licenses was replaced by new anglers entering the sport, although their commitment to fishing was weak.
The American Sportfishing Association funded the study conducted by Southwick Associates, a Florida firm that researches the economics of outdoor activities and recreational market statistics.
“We’ve been doing this study for some time … and it always surprises us how much turnover there is,” said Tom Allen of Southwick Associates. “The perception is, if you’re an angler you remain an angler — once you buy a fishing license, you buy a license every year. That’s not the case, but what’s interesting is the degree of turnover that we found.”
Among the report’s findings:
• The largest segment of anglers, 49 percent, purchased just one fishing license in the last 10 years.
• 44-48 percent of anglers had not bought a fishing license the previous year.
• 47 percent purchased a license in more than one year, but lapsed between purchases.
• Anglers most likely to lapse in license purchases included women, urban residents and young adults age 18 to 24.
The typical angler buys a fishing license in about three of every 10 years, according to the survey. Fifty-two percent of those who bought a license in a given year had purchased a license the year before. About 28 percent hadn’t bought a license in the previous five years.
The report suggests that fishing interest varies based on who you are and where you live. Churn rates were lowest, about 39 percent, among anglers age 55 to 64. Churn was highest, 55 percent, among people 18 to 24 years of age. About 10 percent of anglers live in cities, but the churn among urbanites was some 7 percent higher than that of anglers who live in suburbs and 13 percent higher than those who live in rural communities.
Much has been made of the growing number of female anglers, but the report found the churn among women is about 13 percent higher than among men.
“What we’ve found is fishing is a very social activity. Their buddies do it, so they do it,” said Allen. “It’s generally an inexpensive activity, so when the economy goes bad, fishing license sales go up. When the economy goes south, what do many people have a lot of? Time.”
The Southwick report was based on fishing license sales from 2004 through 2013 among 12 state fish and wildlife agencies. Pennsylvania was not included in the study.
The state Fish and Boat Commission addresses angler churn with initiatives that include new approaches to licensing and a robust package of fishing education programs, from a basic intro to fishing course to Ladies Only Fly Fishing. All of the programs are free, and no fishing license is required.
“The diversity of people is amazing,” said fishing instructor Amidea Daniel, who will lead a Family Fly Fishing Program 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 26 at Keystone State Park, Westmoreland County. The program has attracted 733 people since 2010.
“A number of them have never fished before, but see fly fishing as a way to increase opportunities for fishing in Pennsylvania waterways,” said Daniel. “We get families with kids, grandparents with grandchildren. The majority are folks that have had prior fly fishing experience but want to learn more.”
A Fish and Boat evaluation of the program in 2013-14 found that 70 percent of participants age 16 or older did not have a fishing license at the time of the program; 50 percent bought a fishing license following the program.
John Hayes:

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