Over the past several years we have been hearing that the outdoor sports are declining in popularity. This is true to some degree as far as hunting goes. Fishing, however, is actually gaining in popularity.
A report recently released titled 'the 2010 Special Report on Fishing and Boating' indicates that the number of people participating in freshwater fishing rose from 2008 to 2009 by 2 percent, a reversal of a two-year declining trend. This may not be a huge improvement, and it does follow a couple years in the opposite direction, but it does blow smoke in the faces of those who have proclaimed fishing a dying sport.
The survey was conducted by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation and The Outdoor Foundation.
Learning to fish
The Brent McKown Memorial Learn-to-Fish Program was held Aug. 21 downstream from Farnsworth Fish Hatchery in Clarendon. Pictured with Daryl McKown is 2-year-old Deidre Nelson, daughter of Ashley and Christopher Nelson of Youngsville.
According to the report, 41-million people participated in freshwater fishing in 2009, and 48-million in freshwater and saltwater fishing combined. Combined participation shows a minor decrease from the previous year. The increase was strictly in freshwater fishing.
Most encouraging was that more than 25.4 percent of the ages six years-old to nine years-old age bracket participated in fishing. Fishing has the potential to be the physical condition savior for youth. Some reports claim that the younger generation may be the first generation in U.S. history which may be looking forward to a shorter life expectancy than their parents, this a result of less time spent outdoors resulting in less exercise.
Participation drops sharply through the teens which is quite natural. That is the time when kids are more likely to concentrate on bonding with their peer group. And, unfort8unately, it also is a time when they are spending a lot of time texting and playing video games.
Participation rises to the mid-40s age group, after which it declines again.
Several reasons seem to be significant in preventing people from participating more often in outdoor activities. One is the economy.
I believe that more adults with kids less than 18 years old in their households participate in fishing than households with no kids in that age bracket. A lot of adults recognize the benefits of fishing with their kids. They enjoy fishing with their kids. They believe fishing will enrich their kids lives.
Then there are the factors that the survey tells us, but we are too afraid to address, we are afraid of saying or writing things that are socially unacceptable. Some subjects are so delicate they are out-of-bounds. These, in this survey, are gender, age, income, education, and ethnicity, the latter being the most sensitive.
More than 14 percent of the U.S. population participates in fishing. Look at the way this breaks down ethnically: 83.5 percent of people who identify themselves as Caucasian/white, 6.3 percent of African American/black, 5.1 percent of Hispanic, and just 2.6 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander.
I do not think that ethnicity has a thing to do with the enjoyment of fishing. What these particular statistics point to are very obvious areas for growth in sport fishing.
Not only is fishing a healthy activity, it is considered a gateway activity which means it spurs other outdoors interests. More than 77 percent of the people who went fishing also participated in other outdoor activities. This is good news for physical fitness, conservation, and closer awareness of wildlife and the environment.
One shortcoming of surveys is that they cannot ask all possible questions so some important factors may be hidden. Also, not all combinations of data may be considered in final analysis. This does not diminish from the significance of the results of this survey, it only stimulates curiosity.
What are the reasons more anglers do not participate in outdoor activities more often by age group or ethnicity? The answers probably would show clear and revealing differences.
What are the reasons participation rates vary so much between various parts of the country? Is it due to opportunities, cultural factors, economics, or reasons that have never been explored?
Considerable and extensive efforts by business and participant components of sport fishing have been made to promote participation. Either these efforts have failed, or have they limited larger declines in fishing participation?