‘Does fishing have a future?’

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An ‘Off the Hook’ pop-up stand in Hudson River Park, New York, June 2019. Photo: RBFF

An ‘Off the Hook’ pop-up stand in Hudson River Park, New York, June 2019. Photo: RBFF

As young people turn away from fishing, companies, schools and groups like the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation are looking for ways to “reel them back in.”

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted the challenges in the recreational fishing industry, discussing the sport’s lack of diversity and problems with retention.

Children from ages 13 to 17 fish less than those aged 6 to 12, the article points out, adding that the trend is contributing to “a drastic decline in the popularity of fishing.”

The number of anglers in the U.S. increased from 33.1 million in 2011 to 35.8 million in 2016, but the number of total days they fished dropped dramatically, from 553.8 million to 459.3 million — a 17 percent decrease, according to the newspaper, citing data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“I go to all the industry meetings,” RBFF CEO Frank Peterson told the newspaper. “I’m a 67-year-old pale white male. I look out at the audience, and they all look like me. We need to attract more diverse audiences and women.”

The article criticized fishing companies at ICAST because most had marketing materials featuring white adult men holding big fish; an exception was Zebco, a company that featured young, racially diverse men and women engaging in various outdoor activities in addition to fishing.

At the same time, the article highlighted RBFF’s efforts to expand fishing’s base. The Take Me Fishing program and Vamos a Pescar, its Spanish-language counterpart, provide newcomers with everything they need to know — from tackle recommendations and knot-tying videos to finding a place to fish.

The newspaper also highlighted the Women Making Waves program, pointing out that although 45 percent of new anglers are women, they drop out of the sport at a much higher rate — only 19 percent of women identify as an angler.

“Fishing and boating participation won’t continue to grow unless we engage with youth and other non-traditional audiences,” RBFF marketing and communications senior vice president Stephanie Vatalaro told Trade Only Today. “I’m pleased to see fishing in the national spotlight, and hopeful this article will bring awareness to the issue and inspire industrywide action to ensure the future of the sport and help us meet our 60 in 60 goal.”

The 60 in 60 goal is the RBFF’s effort to recruit and retain 60 million anglers in 60 months.

The Wall Street Journal’s website draws 43.9 million visitors per month, according to RBFF

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