According to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, the number of people age-16 and older fishing in the U.S. in 2011 (33.1 million) was 11 percent higher than in 2006. Freshwater fishing saw an 8 percent rise in participation (27.5 million). The number of Great Lakes anglers (1.7 million) didn't change much.
Black bass remained the most popular group of freshwater species outside of the Great Lakes in 2011. Trout climbed one spot since the 2006 survey, surpassing catfish. But participation in catfishing in 2011 rose slightly to over 7 million anglers. Still lagging a bit behind the 1991 through 2001 surveys, but a positive gain nonetheless.
The gains in the number of freshwater anglers over the past 5 years is good news for fishing and the fishing industry, considering the last couple surveys showed declines in participation. But are we cheering too quickly about these big-picture statistics? When you take a look at the back of the survey, in Appendix B, you find information on participation by 6- to 15-year-olds.
So how do the numbers look for fishing's youth? While participation for anglers age-16 and over rose, youth participation declined 5 percent, from 12.3 million in 2005 to 11.7 million in 2010. Youth participation also declined from 2000 to 2005, and from 1995 to 2000. Overall, the number of 6- to 15-year-olds participating in fishing since 1995 is down 22 percent. The bottom line is that the demographics of fishing are changing, with fewer anglers taking up fishing at an earlier age. An alarming trend indeed.
Catfishing is an ideal opportunity to introduce kids to fishing. Channel catfish are widely distributed and available to more anglers geographically than perhaps any other group of freshwater fish. Whether in lakes, rivers, reservoirs, or ponds, the fishing can be simple, without the need for fancy equipment and expensive boats. Urban fisheries are maintained by many state agencies, providing opportunities for anglers and their families limited to city fishing. Other resources to get kids introduced and active in fishing are clinics, fishing shows, tackle loaner programs, and media, including print, digital, and television.
In-Fisherman recently published a new book, The New! Fishing Fundamentals, for anglers of all ages, to start them down the path to fishing. In a nutshell, anglers are taught how to understand the nature of the fish being pursued, which leads to being able to find them and catching them using proven methods. The learning process is enlightening and fun, and can be surprisingly simple