Guest Editor’s Log: Fishing, By The Numbers - The Fisherman

Guest Editor’s Log: Fishing, By The Numbers

During the first week in October I had the opportunity to attend a recreational fishing conference presented by the American Sportfishing Association (ASA).  Held every year at rather ritzy locations (this one overlooking the Gulf of Mexico at Miramar Beach, FL) around the country, the multi-day “ASA Summit” is where tackle manufacturers, retailers and outdoor media types gather to discuss the state of the recreational fishing industry in America.

While ASA is essentially a sportfishing trade association, it’s important to keep in mind that this particular industry can’t be successful without satisfied anglers getting every possible opportunity they can to fish; while it’s readily safe to assume all Americans will need insurance, pharmaceuticals or education at some point in their lives, for the recreational fishing industry to survive it’s critical that customers want to participate, buying more tackle to catch more fish.

I sat through hours of meetings about the sportfishing industry, and brought home a lot of valuable data.  Statistically speaking, these were some my favorite figures delivered by ASA in their 2023 Trade Insights & Market Report compiled by the Southwick Associates.  Based on survey data compiled by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, 40 million Americans went fishing in 2022 and they spent some cash in the process!

In terms of overall tackle sales in 2022, the total figure topped $8 billion which the folks at Southwick Associates broke it down as follows:

  • Rods & Reels                          $3.27 billion
  • Other                                       $1.30 billion
  • Lures & Terminal Tackle        $1.20 billion
  • Electronics                              $835 million
  • Line                                         $583 million
  • Fly Fishing                              $469 million
  • Apparel                                   $389 million

Roughly 80% of all retail sales in America comes from brick and mortar locations, and just 10% online (I think the missing 10% comes from me raiding my father’s tackle shed).  On the saltwater side, 28% of sales come from local shops and 28% of tackle is sold through outdoor specialty shops, whereas 21% comes from big box stores and another 20% from general sporting good outlets.

Another collection of statistics that I found very interesting last month was the breakdown of targeted fish species by American anglers.  On the freshwater side, the 2022 numbers for top five favorite species to target in the sweetwater weren’t too surprising:

Catfish                                                 35.3%

Largemouth/spotted bass                   32.7%

Smallmouth bass                                27.1%

Trout                                                   27%

Panfish (crappie, bluegill, etc.)           22.7%

For saltwater anglers the top five most targeted species in American according to information shared at the ASA Summit were as follows:

Redfish, channel bass                        20.6%

Flounder (fluke)                                  15.2%

Grouper, snapper, sea bass               11.9%

Spotted trout or weakfish                    11.1%

Bluefish                                               10.9 %

Yeah, I know what you’re wondering – where’s striped bass fit in?  Well, on the freshwater side it came up in the14% range right after panfish, while saltwater anglers tabbed striped bass as 11th in the list (8.7%) following snook, black drum, salmon, mackerel and perch.

It’s hard to think of anything else but striped bass right now, but even in The Fisherman’s own reader survey compiled annually shows fluke consistently ranking #1 with our readers (99% importance rate), followed by striped bass (98%), black sea bass (95%), weakfish (91%) and then bluefish (90%).

Despite statistics proving otherwise, as we head into the month of November, striped bass is king of the hill right now.  So fish hard, and keep our national economy humming along!

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