Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Fifteen Percent

The latest US Fish and Wildlife Service participation numbers were recently released (click here for Brett French's Billings Gazette story for a Montana-centric article), and are a good source of blog fodder. Especially when they're not what you expect, and I was kind of shocked by some of the statistics.

From French's article:
"Between 2011 and 2009, (Montana) angler numbers fell 35,500... The fishing participation rate nationally is only 14 percent. The mountain states region, which includes Montana and Wyoming, can boast a 15 percent participation rate. The west north-central states, which includes the Dakotas and Minnesota, leads the nation with a 23 percent participation rate. Oddly, the watery Pacific states -- Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska -- have a participation rate of only 9 percent, the lowest in the nation."
The elbow room of 15 percent.
Fifteen percent? That includes bait and spin-fishing. I am blown away. I imagine that because I spend much time fly fishing and I associate with mostly fly fishers, that my perception has been skewed. If I'm being honest, I love that so few flog our rivers, but if I'm being considerate and in it for the industry - I gotta think that at least some of the 85 percent don't know what they're missing. I've said it before - we live in a state with thousands of miles of fishy water that the law allows us to wade through - it's an incredible thing in which only 15 percent of the residents partake. Sheer madness.

As an angler, I like this. As a member of the fly fishing industry, it's less likeable. It tells me there is a ton of opportunity for expansion of the industry via popularizing the sport, which the industry is all over - another reason I am shocked it's 15 percent. And while I love the elbow room of 15 percent participation, I also enjoy cameraderie. And the more who participate, the more innovation, the more places to buy flies and tying materials, the more magazines, books, etc. Ultimately, in my opinion, it's kind of a mixed bag.

Are you surprised by these numbers? Would you like to see more participants? Why?


Swamp Yankee said...

As an Angler who enjoys the peace and quiet, lack of litter, and privacy, the stats are fine by me. leave combat fishing to the snaggers, I need room to cast. You say you're in the industry, so try thinking about it like this; 14% nationally is nearly 44 Million anglers. So between the two of us, (18 & 88 followers) we can safely reach .000002409% of the US's anglers. Numbers are always surprising!

David Payne said...

If according to FWP there are 353,000 fishing license holders in Montana, compared to an estimated state population of 1 million, according to my math that comes out to 35.3%. If one were to believe US Fish Game's numbers that would mean that over half of the people in Montana who purchased a fishing license don't participate in the sport. Am I missing something here?

Joshua Bergan said...

I am guessing that the 353,000 number represents non-residents as well. But if so, that again highlights something interesting - non-resident anglers out-number resident anglers by about 3:2. I'd never have guess it was that much (if my assumption is accurate).

David Payne said...

From French's article..."The number of licensed anglers in the state fell from more than 391,000 in 2009 to almost 353,000 in 2011"....from that it seems pretty clear they are measuring resident licenses. I would find it hard to believe the out of state permits out-number resident sales, but stranger conditions exist I guess... I question the accuracy of the U.S. Fish and Duck if for no other reason than in my 40 plus years of angling and hunting, I've never been asked to respond to a survey by the feds. Methinks the same folks who cook the numbers over at the CBO do the fish surveys for USF&D...both produce products equally useless..IMHO

FinFollower said...

On the days where I feel like I'm standing shoulder to shoulder with other anglers there seems to be way too many of us. Luckily there aren't too many of those days.