If the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) is going to reach its lofty goal to increase participation in the sport from the current 47 million anglers to 60 million anglers in just 60 months, it’s going to take more than just a catchy “60 in 60” slogan to do it – although I admit I personally love this coined phrase.
The great thing about being in the boating industry is you just never know who you’re going to come across. I recently had the privilege of sitting down and talking with RBFF President and CEO Frank Peterson. I’ve been hearing about 60 in 60 for years, but I got a deeper sense of appreciation for the initiative after talking with this man who is clearly passionate about growing the number of anglers. To me, March 31, 2021 seems like an eternity away, but I now have a better sense of the urgency needed if RBFF is going to reach the 60 million angler mark with just under three years to go.
The RBFF staff, including key members Stephanie Vatalaro and Bruna Carincotte, couldn’t contain their enthusiasm for growing fishing participants if they wanted to. Now known as the R3 initiative, the blueprint to increase anglers is centered on recruitment, retention and reactivation.
How are they doing? That’s actually the same question I asked Peterson and I was glad to hear their efforts are paying off.
“In the last five years participation is up 8.2 percent and it’s up nearly 20 percent in the last ten years,” explained the RBFF president. “It’s the highest fishing participation numbers since 1991.”
Since fishing is the number one activity to do on a boat, the 47 million anglers should easily be higher considering the number of Americans ages six and older who participated in boating in 2016 was 142 million. There is clearly a lot of room for growth.
There were 2.5 million first-time anglers in 2016, but here is why women are so extremely important to being able to reach this goal. According to Peterson, 45 percent of new participants are female. That’s right, more and more women are giving fishing a try and that’s a trend Peterson is predicting will continue.
The RBFF staff could tell I was eating up the stats they were dishing out, so they tossed a couple of other numbers around that hooked me like a big mouth bass.
“Of the active fishermen today, 84 percent had their first fishing experience before the age of 12 and 94 percent as minors,” stated Peterson. “If we want to focus on the millennials we should have started back when they were kids.”
Statistically speaking, the 11 million youth anglers ages 6 to 17 is up nearly three percent and the 3.8 million Hispanic anglers is up more than 11 percent.
The RBFF is a non-profit organization whose mission is to increase participation in recreational angling and boating, and thereby improve public awareness and appreciation of the need to protect, conserve and restore this nation's aquatic natural resources.
With their Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar national campaigns, the RBFF is doing their part, but are we? Let’s help with the journey to 60 million anglers by encouraging new and experienced anglers alike to promote fishing. Or if nothing else, take a kid fishing this year. Let’s get that future angler hooked.