The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is certainly thorough. The feds took 143 pages, along with pie charts, bar graphs, diagrams, and a blur of statistical data to compile a report that tells us what we probably already knew — fishing is really popular.
In the most recent installment of its extensive national studies of participation in the great outdoors, USFWS found that the sport of angling is growing in popularity, both in Ohio and around the country.
Ohio had about 1.4 million anglers in 2011, the year the survey studied, which translates into an increase of about 11 percent since the previous study five years earlier. There was a much larger increase in the amount of money spent by Ohio anglers, which spiked more than 65 percent to around $2 billion, with that increase fueled partially by a rise in land and access leases.
While the economists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service admitted to being a bit taken aback by the jump in the trend in fishing, they probably should not have been surprised at all.
As the overall economic situation got tougher, fishing had to offer a practical recreational option to many, because it is relatively inexpensive to get started and stay involved in fishing, and each successful outing offered the chance to bring home something for the table.
The sport has also evolved dramatically, moving from the “me and Joe got a six-pack and went fishing” era of 50 years ago to one today where a significant portion of the marketing of fishing targets women and children. There has been an explosion of educational angling programs, most of them offered for free, to introduce these huge demographics to the sport.
While the “National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation” did not break down the number of anglers by specific age, it did show that 73 percent of anglers nationally, or about 24.2 million, were male, and 27 percent (8.9 million) were female. The national numbers showed an increase of more than 10 percent in the overall number of anglers from 2006 to 2011.
Of the 33.1 million anglers in the United States, 27.5 million do all or most of their fishing in freshwater, while 8.9 million fish primarily in saltwater. About 89 percent of all the anglers in the United States live in cities or metropolitan areas with populations of 50,000 or more.
In the Great Lakes region, the study found that 16 percent of the total population takes part in fishing, an increase of 1 percent since the 2006 study.
Overall, Florida has the most resident anglers with 3.1 million, followed by Texas, New York, Michigan (1.74 million), and California. In Michigan, anglers spent $2.43 billion in 2011 on fishing and fishing-related expenses, such as equipment, transportation, lodging, food, and licenses.
In terms of the percentage of the resident population taking part in fishing, Alaska leads the way with 40 percent participation, followed by Minnesota, Mississippi, Wyoming, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Idaho, and Montana.
Black bass, which includes largemouth and smallmouth bass, remains the most pursued freshwater fish nationally, with about 40 percent of all anglers pursuing bass during the survey year.
On the Great Lakes, however, where 1.7 million anglers fished in 2011, walleye and sauger were the most commonly sought fish according to the study. There were almost 20 million angler days spent fishing on the Great Lakes in 2011, with Great Lakes-related fishing expenditures totaling about $1.9 billion.
The wide-ranging survey of outdoors activity, which also looked at participation in hunting and wildlife watching, found that about 18 percent of Ohio’s roughly 11 million people took part in fishing or hunting in 2011, while in Michigan that number was 21 percent of the population.
The study also showed a 9 percent increase in the number of hunters nationwide from 2006 to 2011, while the numbers of people engaging in wildlife watching showed no statistically significant change.
In Michigan, with a population estimated at around 10 million people, the participation in some sort of wildlife-related recreation was at 48 percent — one of the highest in the nation. Alaska had the highest participation rate for wildlife-related recreation at 64 percent, while Ohio’s participation rate was around 45 percent.
FISHING REPORT: With our recent extended run of wild weather in command, fishing on Lake Erie has been better than expected for those able to dodge the storms and find relatively clean water. Captain Ross Robertson reports that runs across the Canadian line to find good water and avoid the “junk fish” have been productive. Robertson said closer to the Ohio shoreline he recently encountered mayfly husks so thick it “looked like plywood on the water,” but the deeper open water in Canada offered relief from that. “Most of the time, I’ve been in the middle of nowhere by myself,” said Robertson, who reported that his clients were catching some “double-digit” walleye on spinners. The spate of heavy rains has made a mess of area rivers and streams, but once things settle down, the Maumee should continue serving up big flathead catfish below Providence Dam for anglers using cut baits or shrimp and fishing the early hours of the morning, and the late evenings.
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Matt Markey at: