How Often Do You Fish?

22 inch 4½ pound rainbow troutAccording to the Special Fishing Report 2014, the average person fished 19.7 days in 2013.

That included 16.6 days in freshwater and 15.0 days in saltwater.

So the average person fished 19.7 days per year, but we know some people fished only once the entire year and a few people fish almost everyday, so how do you rank against the average angler represented in Figure 1 and Table 1?

days fished per year

Figure 1. Distribution of Annual Number of Days Fished in 2013 by U.S. Anglers aged 6 and above.

Figure 1 shows the percentage of anglers in each category (range of days fished) from 1 – 3 days up to 104 days or more in 2013.

Table 1 shows the same data plus has the breakdown for fishing in Freshwater, Saltwater and Fly Fishing.

Table 1. 2013 Annual Fishing Trips*

Average Days     19.7     16.6    15.0     14.5
Days per Year All Fishing Freshwater Saltwater Fly Fishing
1- 3 (occasionally)    27.4%    27.7%    36.9%    40.2%
4-11 (< 1 X month)    36.3%    39.4%    35.7%    33.8%
12-23 (1-2 X month)    14.8%    13.7%    11.8%    12.7%
24-51 (2-4 X month)    13.6%    13.4%     9.3%     9.3%
52-103 (1-4 X week)     5.2%     4.1%     4.7%     2.6%
104+ (>4 X week)     2.8%     1.8%     1.5%     1.4%

*U.S. Anglers aged 6 and above.

In Table 1 and Figure 1, 27.4% of all anglers (all types of fishing) only fished occasionally (1-3 times) per year. For the same category (1 – 3 days), 27.7%. 36.9% and 40.2% of Freshwater, Saltwater and Fly fishing respectively.

In the next category, 36.3% of all anglers fished 4 – 11 times and then in the next category 14.8% fished 12-23 times and so on.

If we combine the bottom two and the top two categories, we see that 63.7% (27.4% + 36.3%) of all anglers actually fish less than once a month and only 8% (5.2% + 2.8%) of people fish at least once per week.

For freshwater fishing, 67.1% of anglers fish less than once a month and only 5.9% of anglers fish at least once per week.

72.6% of saltwater anglers fish less than once a month and 6.2% fish at least once per week.

As for fly fishing, 74% fly fish less than once per month and only 4% fly fish at least once a week.

National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation Report

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation report (NSFHWAR) (download pdf) has more detailed information about fishing activity which I used to calculate the number of days fished per person in Table 2 for another estimate of how often people fish.

Table 2. 2011 U.S. Recreational Fishing Activity*

Fishing Activity Participants Days Days/Person
All Fishing  33,112,000 553,841,000     16.7
All Freshwater Fishing  27,547,000 455,862,000     16.5
Freshwater except GL 27,060,000 443,223,000     16.4
Great Lakes (GL)   1,665,000  19,661,000     11.8
Saltwater   8,889,000  99,474,000     11.2
Fish from Shore  15,095,000 296,397,000     19.6
Fish from Boat 18,017,000 257,444,000     14.3
Fish in Lake/Pond  22,791,000 335,732,000     14.7
Fish River/Stream  11,888,000 148,218,000     12.5
Ice Fish   1,930,000  19,369,000    10.0
Fly Fish   4,260,000  37,872,000      8.9

*U.S. Anglers aged 16 and above.

The NSFHWAR 2011 data had slightly lower averages than the 2014 Special Fishing Report (SFR) (2013 data). The survey methods differed and the SFR include anglers aged 6 and above and the NSFHWAR include age 16 and above, but remember that most surveys are just indices to reality.

Table 2 shows the average angler fishes between 16.7 – 11.2 days per year depending on the type of fishing, with all types combined being the highest and saltwater fishing being the lowest.

Table 2 also includes data about the number of people and total effort that fish from boats or from shore, in lakes/ponds or streams/rivers and also includes data about ice fishing and fly fishing.

More people fish from boats, but anglers that fish from shore fish more often.

More people fish in ponds and lakes than in streams and also fish more often.

People that fish through the ice or fly fish are a small fraction of all angers and ice anglers fish about 10 times per year and the average fly fisher goes out 8.9 times per year.

In 2015, I fished 45 days and all with a fly rod, while wading (from shore) and all fishing in 2015 was in streams or rivers. In the last four years, I’ve fished from a boat only five times, in saltwater four times and ice fished three times.

We Need to More Time Fishing

Since I started fly fishing, I’ve increased the number of days I fish from about 10 days per year to 26 days in 2013, 24 days in 2014 and 45 days in 2015. Part of this increase has to do with learning new skills and new places to fish, but also because I have a fishing buddy. My fishing buddy/fish coach (Jim O’Neal, watch some of our fishing videos) fished at least 150 times last year, so I guess I need to shoot for at least 52 days this year so I can move up a notch into the top 8%.

I have borrowed Franc White’s (the old Southern Sportsman TV show) saying “Do yourself a favor, take a kid fishing”, because we need to continue the traditions of fishing and enjoying the outdoors. Fishing is a good way to get kids outdoors away from T.V., computers and hand-held devices.

Download the National Wildlife Federation’s fact sheet about the benefits to body, mind and spirit of spending time outside.

Plus, the more people that care about fishing will also care about fish fishing access and fish habitat. But that doesn’t just apply to kids, so do yourself a favor and take a buddy fishing.

If you fish less than once a month, think about how much better your life would be if you doubled the number of days you spent fishing, especially with family or friends.

Read the Entire Outdoor Foundation’s Special Fishing Report 2014.

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