A new study shows that more women and Hispanics are fishing than ever before, highlighting record-breaking diversity for America's anglers.
The Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF) tracked participation, days out fishing, and interest in the sport in the 2019 Special Report on Fishing, created in partnership with the Outdoor Foundation.
"It's often assumed that all anglers look alike," said Stephanie Vatalaro, RBFF's Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications. "Our mission is to welcome everyone to the water — because if you want to learn to fish, you should have that opportunity no matter who you are. And while our work isn't over, it's clear from these results that the tides are changing."
Tracy Nguyen-Chung, founder of Brown Folks Fishing, said the growing participation of black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPoC) is exciting because it also means there are more voices to speak about environmental issues.
"Many of our communities have deeply held traditions and roots in fishing, especially here in the US where Indigenous communities have long been stewards of the waters we fish on," Nguyen-Chung said.
But it's a different narrative in fly fishing.
"While the overall number of anglers participating in fly fishing has grown over the last two years, all non-white groups have either stagnated or declined in participation," Nguyen-Chung said. She pointed out that the participation of Native Americans is not broken out in the report. "This is not only a challenge to accurate reporting, but also highly problematic erasure."
Some BIPoC anglers to follow:
Indigenous guide Ashely Nichole Lewis (@badashoutdoors)
Fishing guide Hilary Hutcheson (@outsidehilary)
Fly-fishing guide Alvin Dedeaux (@alvin_dedeaux_fly_fishing)
Fly fisher Odom Wu (@odomonthefly)
RBFF's Take Me Fishing campaigns, with how-to videos in both English and Spanish, sought to introduce more people to the sport. RBFF's other diversity initiatives include its #WomenMakingWaves campaign and new programs funded by the George H.W. Bush Vamos A Pescar Education Fund grants.
While there is more work to do to center diverse voices in the sport and lower barrier to entry, these are steps in the right direction. "All of the work that is being done is by and for communities of color, despite the decline and despite the lack of effort from the industry as whole," Nguyen-Chung said. "And I'm encouraged by that because it means we are reimagining and reclaiming the terms and conditions by which we choose to participate."