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Getting to Know the Newbies


On June 1 -2, virtually this year, the Outdoor Recreational Roundtable hosted its annual Partners Outdoors symposium covering topics of importance to the broad-based outdoors industry, including boating and fishing.

A presentation highlight on June 1 was by Stephanie Vatalaro, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. She was invited to speak in a segment titled, “Impacts of Covid-19 on Outdoor Recreation,” which intended to “take stock of the effects of the pandemic and ensure Americans newfound love and enjoyment of the outdoors and new and diverse outdoor participants are retained.”

Vatalaro shared the good news about fishing and boating participation continuing to increase over the past 16 or so months — and offered insights into who these new folks are.

Her virtual presentation shared the findings of RBFF research and the tremendous growth in key fishing segments:

• 13.5 million youth (6 to 17) went fishing in 2020, with ages 13-17 the highest participation rate recorded since 2007.

• 19.7 million females went fishing in 2020 — the highest level recorded to date. Women make up 36 percent of all fishing participants — up from 32 percent (from 15 million) in 2008.

• 4.8 million Hispanics went fishing in 2020. This was an all-time high, and more than doubled the number from 2007.

• African American fishing participation is up almost 1 million in the last 10 years.


She also shared statistics from RBFF’s research that the marine industry’s growth audiences are young, more diverse and urban.

Supporting the idea that newcomers to specialized activities such as boating and fishing must be made to feel welcome to stay active, Vatalaro suggested five ways to engage the new fishing-and-boating audience:

  1. Remind newcomers of the great fishing and boating experiences they had in 2020 — in emails and social media, show them imagery of great times on the water.
  2. Share convenient local fishing and boating access points and seasonal ideas for outings.
  3. Provide the audience with easy, educational fishing and boating resources like how-to videos and shopping/safety checklists.
  4. Emphasize the social aspects of fishing and boating in outreach.
  5. Recommend cost-effective beginning fishing/boating equipment.

Vatalaro emphasized that new anglers and boaters are looking for help and direction on where and how to most enjoy fishing and boating, which the Get On Board campaign from Take Me Fishing and Discover Boating addresses.

“There is a big opportunity for continued growth in fishing and boating in 2021, and we’re already seeing signs of it,” said Vatalaro. “The digital assets have seen 10 million visits in the last two months – that’s 3 million more than in 2020.”

Consider these findings and check out the Get On Board campaign toolkit.


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