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Fishing & Boating Rose to Historic Popularity in 2020

With COVID-19 transforming Americans’ recreational habits, a new study from the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) has found that millions of new or returning participants have taken up fishing & boating. Particular increases were seen among nontraditional participants, signaling the activities’ increasing appeal among new audiences.

Titled Who’s On Board: Keeping New Anglers & Boaters Hooked, the study is a comprehensive look at America’s newcomers to the water and how COVID-19 is influencing the future of outdoor recreation. It was conducted by RBFF to support its Take Me Fishing brand.

“Social distancing has undoubtedly made many of our routine leisure activities inaccessible, but it also led many of us to discover new ways of enjoying our free time and practicing self-care during the pandemic,” said Stephanie Vatalaro, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for RBFF. “With all the uncertainty that 2020 has brought, fishing & boating provide a host of benefits including peace and relaxation, quality time with family and loved ones and even simply the calming effect of nature.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Millions of Americans took up fishing or boating as new or returning participants during summer 2020.
  • New anglers and boaters are younger, more urban and more diverse. They are also highly socially connected.
  • Common reasons for getting started included canceled vacations and summer plans, more flexible schedules while working from home and inspiration from family and friends.
  • New anglers overcame a variety of barriers including inexperience, lack of equipment and not having a fishing companion.
  • Benefits people liked most about fishing & boating included the calmness of nature, enjoyment and mental wellness.
  • Newcomers overwhelmingly plan to continue fishing & boating. Among boaters, 94% say they’ll continue, and among anglers, 90% plan to continue in the future.
  • Personal motivations for continued participation include three key elements of fishing & boating: social connection with loved ones, the challenge of the activities and the connection to nature they offer.

“Fishing & boating are activities that can benefit anyone, regardless of your age or ability level,” Vatalaro said. “With that in mind, it’s no surprise that 9 in 10 newcomers say they plan to continue participating in the future, underscoring how fishing & boating will continue to help support Americans’ mental wellness for the long term. Together, American’s newest anglers and boaters are helping to grow these activities as vibrant parts of America’s outdoor tradition for years to come.”

Iuliia Tore