More and more of us are goin’ fishin’

Recreational Boating & Fishing Recreational fishing has reached new diversity milestones, according to a new industry study from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. (PRNewsfoto/Recreational Boating & Fishing )

Women and people of color increasingly cast their stress away

Recreational fishing has reached new diversity milestones, according to a new industry study from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF). The “2020 Special Report on Fishing” found that:

  • 3.7 million African Americans participate in fishing, an increase of nearly one million over the last 10 years. 
  • Hispanic Americans are participating at a new record of 4.4 million participants. 
  • Women are also participating at an all-time high of 17.9 million participants. 
  • Overall, more than 50 million Americans participate in fishing, the highest number in 12 years. 
  • The activity gained more than three million new participants last year, the highest in five years. 

“The outdoors belongs to all of us—not just those who fit a certain image,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, senior vice president of marketing and communications for RBFF. “Fishing is about enjoying nature, making memories, and bonding with the people you love. It’s an experience that everyone should get a chance to have, which is why our work is grounded in the belief that the water is open to everyone.”

Fishing interest on the rise

The new participation data comes as Americans overall take increased interest in fishing as a remedy for COVID-19-related stress and anxiety. According to a separate study, one in five Americans are more likely now to try fishing than they were prior to the pandemic. Among parents, the statistic is one in four.

“Social distancing has taken a sizable toll on our collective mental health,” said Vatalaro. “But being on the water has been shown in studies to have a calming effect that can help treat stress and anxiety naturally. Fishing—and by extension, boating—are excellent ways to practice self-care and recreate responsibly.”

To help further increase diversity in fishing and boating, RBFF has launched a new public service initiative called Get On Board in partnership with Discover Boating. The campaign aims to raise awareness about the ways people from all walks of life can support their mental health and wellness on the water.

Outside Get On Board, RBFF’s ongoing commitment to underrepresented audiences on the water, has made the organization an industry leader in diversity and inclusion. Launched in 2014, Vamos A Pescar is the organization’s Hispanic outreach initiative, the first of its kind in the fishing and boating industry.

In 2018, RBFF launched its Women Making Waves social media movement to increase female visibility in fishing. While 43% of new participants are female, only 18% see themselves represented in the activity. Together with influencer partners and an online community, Women Making Waves aims to represent all women on the water.

Additional diversity initiatives from RBFF include the Stories of Mentors and I Am an Angler campaigns. Through spotlighting the personal experiences of diverse fishing participants, RBFF is committed to challenging stereotypes and empowering the next generation in fishing and boating.

The Special Report on Fishing is created in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation and provides one of the most comprehensive looks at the state of U.S. fishing and boating participation. The full report, along with an accompanying infographic, is available at The website also features beginner resources including how-to guides for getting started fishing and boating, an interactive map of places to fish and boat, as well as links to COVID-19 safety guidelines

Information provided by Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation