According to a recent study conducted by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation, recreational fishing continues to surge, reaching new and diverse audiences. In particular, a surge in female, youth, Black and Hispanic participation has seen the activity swell to its highest level in 14 years.

“Last year was definitely unique, but this increased interest in fishing is a trend we’ve seen in the making for a while,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, senior VP of marketing, RBFF. “First-time fishing participants climbed to 4.4 million in 2020, a 42 percent increase, which is phenomenal. And the data shows that these new participants are more diverse than ever, helping to confirm that the water is open to everyone.”

The data follows a year when Americans’ interest in fishing peaked as a remedy for pandemic restrictions and the stress and anxiety caused by it. Among other findings, notable results from the group’s report showed that 19.7 million females went fishing in 2020, a 10 percent increase from 2019; youth and adolescent fishing increased with 13.5 million youth ages 6-to-17 hitting the water; and 5 million Hispanics went fishing in 2020, the highest recorded number in 14 years. Blacks also had their highest participation rate in the last three years, with a 7.4 percent increase in participation and 14.6 percent growth since 2019.

The study also found fishing to have the highest cross-over participation in 2020, with 81 percent of fishing participants reporting enjoying other outdoor activities outside fishing.

Showing the sport’s diverse attraction, the study also found that overall participation continues to increase, with nearly 55 million Americans fishing at least once last year. More importantly, more than 55 percent of people who have tried fishing intend to continue the activity in 2021. The study also showed spending time with family is still top of mind for fishing participation, at 51.3 percent.

To help capitalize on this booming interest in angling, RBFF has also launched its Get On Board public service initiative to grow awareness of how fishing supports wellness and mental health. It’s also continuing to spearhead diversity and inclusion initiatives with its 60 in 60 effort (to attract 60 million anglers to the sport by the end of 2021), Hispanic outreach program Vamos A Pescar, Women Making Waves, Stories of Mentors, and I Am an Angler campaign to debunk participation stereotypes.

All of these growing participation groups spell good news for the sector and preservation efforts for the nation’s waterways. Catch and release fishing, the survey found, was the most prominent practice across all types of fishing in 2020.

“We’re thrilled to see so many new and returning anglers enjoying our nation’s waters,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. “Anglers have always been a force for conservation, helping sustain aquatic resources for future generations. We’re focused on inviting a larger and more diverse community of engaged anglers to become stewards of our cherished natural resources.”

To read the full report, go here.