ORLANDO, Fla. — The 58th International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades show, held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, has drawn more than 12,000 registered attendees this year — a record for the annual fishing industry event.
Calling it the largest sportfishing trade show in the world, American Sportfishing Association president and CEO Mike Nussman told 500 people this morning that the fishing industry has a lot to be positive about, but major work needs to be done to increase fishing participation. Through initiatives such as the Take Me Fishing campaign (established by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation), the industry is shooting to increase participation by 14 million in the next five years — from 46 million to 60 million.
"We work as the squeaky wheel," Nussman said at the state-of-the-industry breakfast, referring to successful fish conservation efforts and aggressive advocacy efforts in Washington. "Because of that, the message comes across too negative sometimes. But most things in our industry are positive, and we have good reason to celebrate."
Fishing participation has been steady for the past few years after a sizable dip in 2007-2008, but some forecasters say U.S. demographics indicate that participation may decrease during the next five years, Nussman said.
But efforts are well underway to make sure this does not happen, he said. Nussman praised the RBFF's effort to work with Disney to promote fishing among today's youth. The TakeMeFishing and Vamos A Pescar programs have done a commendable job of getting children ages 6 to 12 hooked on fishing, he said.
The Boy Scouts of America also have been an effective promoter of fishing. The fishing industry has provided funding for 500 certified angler instructors and the RBFF is funding another 500 instructors in the next year, Nussman said. He also proudly said the Boy Scouts have awarded 2 million fishing merit badges to participating youths.
The industry needs to make it easier for people to get fishing licenses, Nussman said. "Sixty-eight percent of those that hold licenses don't renew," he said. "We can't accept this ratio in our business."
Nussman said the industry should utilize Amazon.com for fishing license purchases and renewals. "This is a goal for us," he said. Nussman also cited other campaigns, such as the “Pitch It" campaign and the recently launched "Keep Florida Fishing Initiative."
Nussman also urged industry members to attend this October’s ASA sportfishing summit in St. Petersburg, Fla. "You just need to be there," he said.
The breakfast event's keynote speaker, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, gave an animated speech highlighting the values he learned during his climb up the football coaching ladder.
"Values are much more important than titles," Bradley said.
His key values included developing genuine relationships and having humility.
"The three most dangerous words in the NFL are 'I got it,’ " Bradley said, warning against overconfidence and the importance of always striving for new goals despite successes.
To illustrate his point, Bradley showed a video clip of a youngster in a spelling bee who announced (before he spelled it) that he definitely knew the spelling of the word kabaragoya and then went on to misspell it.