According to the results of a new survey by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), more Americans are enjoying outdoors pursuits in 2011 than in 2006. A recent article by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation highlighted increasing hunter numbers in the United States described by the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation (pdf), but where do angler numbers stand?

As it turns out, they’re high – or at the very least, higher than in 2006. There were even more people fishing than hunting. The survey found that 90.1 million Americans, or 38 percent of the U.S. population 16 years of age and older, enjoyed some form of either hunting, fishing or other wildlife-associated recreation. Of those, 33.1 million went fishing.

While the main focus is on outdoors enthusiasts aged 16 and older, there was some data collected on those six to 15 years old. Of that age group, 8.5 million fished. In comparison, 1.8 million hunted and 11.7 million watched wildlife. For more specific statistics, check out the information below.


  • On average, each angler spends 17 days a year fishing.
  • 27.1 million anglers fished freshwater, excluding the Great Lakes.
  • 1.7 million anglers fished the Great Lakes.
  • 8.9 million anglers fished saltwater.
  • Average expenditure per angler in 2011 was $1,261.


In 2011, anglers spent $41.8 billion on every aspect involved with fishing. That includes equipment, licenses, transportation, membership dues/contributions and even magazine subscriptions. The pie chart below shows precisely where those dollars went.

Source: US Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation

Comparison with past years

This survey is conducted every five years. Since the time of the last survey in 2006, angler numbers increased by 11%, from roughly 29.5 million to 33.1 million. “The biggest increase was by Great Lakes anglers, a 17 percent increase in participation. The increases for saltwater and non-Great Lakes freshwater angling participation were 15 percent and 8 percent, respectively,” according to the survey. However, there were still not as many anglers as there were in 2001, which saw nearly 35 million Americans hit the water with rod and reel.

Interestingly, fishing-related expenditures declined by 11 percent, although expenditure for fishing equipment (rods, reels, poles and tackle) specifically did not decline.

This is an advance release of preliminary survey results, note that data are subject to revision. The next report of preliminary findings will contain state data and will be released later in August. The full report will be released November 2012. When they are released, reports can be found at

Image from Gary Harvey on the flickr Creative Commons

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One thought on “USFWS Survey Finds More Americans Fishing in 2011 Than in 2006

  1. some reason it reminds me of the stories my Dad use to talk about He said many times during the depression all you had to eat is what you got fishing and hunting. Maybe we are very close to them days again

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