This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

June 23rd, 2003

Words or Phrases That Describe Fishing

There was a recent survey/study regarding African American and Hispanic participation in/and their attitudes towards recreational boating and fishing. The study was commissioned by the The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF), your tax dollars at work (you know that extra tax we all pay on sporting goods). The idea is there is a growing number in minority groups, especially Hispanics, (which now outnumber the African Americans in the US), and in order to market recreational boating and fishing (all fishing, not fly fishing in particular) to these groups the RBFF wanted to find out the existing attitudes of these people toward boating and fishing. Yes, in our touchy-feelie, politically-correct world, we want to know attitudes instead of causes.

Surveys and polls can be slanted to produce nearly any preconceived result wanted, so I was very interested in the questions asked. Here they are:

Words or Phrases That Describe Fishing

    Fun for men
    Something to do with friends
    Something to do with family
    Gives people first hand experience of the outdoors
    Educates children about the outdoors
    One of the best outdoor activities
    Promotes concern for the environment
    Fun for women
    Protects fish and wildlife
    Takes too much time
    Cleans up water pollution
Unfortunately I don't have access to the number of people who took the survey, nor the regions where they lived. Both of which would seem to have a substantial influence on the results.

The concern by the RBFF is there aren't enough new people coming into boating and fishing. Since we are part of the fly-fishing world the concern of fly fishing manufactures is we have an aging group of fly fishers - and if we don't attract young folks to fly fishing eventually it will die off. Below are the results of the survey.

It would seem to me there are multiple problems in attracting new people to either boating or fishing. The fly fishing industry certainly has made serious attempts to bring women to fly fishing, and for the most part the marketing directed at women has not worked. Our demographics for FAOL show about 8% of our readers are female. I'll leave why women don't fly fish for another time, but it has been my experience that most women who are active fly fishers were introduced to it by a family member when they were young.

Back to the survey. Why do you fish? How many of the questions on the survey relate to you? How would you personally describe fishing?

The people who ran the survey also correlated the responses and produced the 'answers.' Things like "The top association made by both African-Americans and Hispanics is that fishing is fun for men. On the other hand, both groups doubt that fishing is something that is fun for women." ...and "Agreement with the idea fishing protects fish and wildlife is low - just four out of ten Hispanics and one out of three African-Americans say this phrase describes fishing. Less than one-third believe fishing cleans up water pollution."

So much for stewardship.

I suggest you read this study yourself - at:

I've had many conversations with folks concerned with declining numbers in fishing. The reasons for the decline vary from loss of fishing opportunities (as the salmon here in the NW), high cost of equipment and licenses, lack of access to water and lack of free time.

When most of today's Baby Boomers were growing up, mother's were at home. Divorce was not as prevalent, single-parent households and latch-key kids were rare. Just how much spare time, or money is available in single-parent households today? Even two-parent households are stretched to the breaking point financially and time wise - and 99% of the mothers are working too. (Thanks to out-of-control taxation most don't have a choice.)

In the African-American group 80% of the children being born now are into single parent households.

Go fishing? Or boating? Who's got the money to buy a boat?

The granddads who may have taken their grandchildren fishing in the past - the 'extended families' are spread all across the country - or world. The families are lucky to get together for Christmas. Now we 'get together' by email, instant messanger and cell phone.

For those who have never fished, there may not be any opportunities at all! No place to fish and no one to teach them if they wanted to learn.

The idea that the RBFF is charged with, promoting, marketing and bringing more people into boating and fishing, certainly is admirable - but unfortunately until there is real change in this country the best bet isn't in recruiting minority groups or women.

It is teaching kids through the schools.

The RBFF has started a new program in 2003 which may be the best way to bring new people to fishing - it is grants to schools wanting to start fishing programs. I could not find anything on this on the RBFF website, even though it was part of the "Stakeholder Survey" I received this past week. If you are a teacher or school administrator I would suggest you contact the RBFF directly, before the money is gone:

601 N. Fairfax St., Suite 140
Alexandria, VA 22314
Phone: 703/519.0013
Fax: 703/519.9565

Restoring fishing to the popularity it had in years past, where a constant growth rate was assured and people passed their knowledge on to the younger family members may be impossible. It is a different world. There are however, deeper intrinsic values to fishing which anyone's survey, no matter how carefully crafted cannot measure. Those are the values we are in danger of losing as the numbers of active anglers diminish.

Fly Anglers OnLine will continue to bring you the best information we can. It is our way of keeping on. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to pass it on! ~ The LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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