Fish and Aquatic Conservation

The Face of Fishing: Younger, more diverse, and supporting conservation by the billions.

Fishing is more than a hobby. For many, it represents a way of life, a connection to wildlife, and a sustainable way to support your family and community. Through fishing, we have the opportunity to connect with nature and the world around us.

People who fish have always been a driving force for conservation because they understand that fishing depends on clean water, sustainably managed resources, and protected habitat. They lead the way in protecting waterways from invasive species and promoting responsible fishing practices. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works closely with state fish and wildlife agencies, communities, and partners to ensure that the nation’s fisheries are safe, productive, and sustainable for everyone to enjoy.

A young child looks at a fish he is holding. A child next to him smiles and points at the camera.
Programs like the Anchorage Urban Fishing program break down barriers by helping participants overcome their fear of the outdoor. Photo by Katrina Leibich/USFWS

Fishing and wildlife are for everyone.

Fishing provides opportunities for everyone, whether you live in a city or a small community. During 2020, with many recreational opportunities shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, over 55 million people turned to fishing as a safe respite from the screens and stresses of the year – the highest number in over a decade.

According to the most recent industry information from the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, recreational fishing in 2020 was more popular and diverse than ever before:

"We are thrilled to see so many new and returning anglers enjoying our nation's waters. Anglers have always been a force for conservation, and we appreciate their continued support to sustain aquatic resources for future generations," said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Martha Williams. "We are focused on inviting a larger and more diverse community of engaged anglers to become stewards of our cherished natural resources."

An adult watches a young boy and girl fishing from a dock.
When many recreational opportunities closed in 2020, fishing became an ideal social distancing activity for families. Photo by Kayt Jonsson/USFWS.

Fishing funds conservation.

Fishing directly funds conservation through license sales and excise taxes. Each year, the Sport Fish Restoration Program distributes millions of dollars to state fish and wildlife resource agencies dedicated to restoration, access, and enhancement projects across the country.

The combination of license fees and excise taxes is used to complete projects that lead to cleaner water, healthier fisheries, and better access for all communities.

Benefits of the Sport Fish Restoration Program

Building for the Future

Rivers, lakes, and wetlands are the lifeblood of communities of all sizes and we are working alongside those communities to restore and conserve aquatic habitat and wildlife. As we fulfill our mission, we are working to address the lack of equitable access to nature and ensure that all communities can enjoy clean, safe, and healthy recreational fishing opportunities.

We work from the Arctic Circle to the Florida Keys monitoring and controlling invasive species, evaluating native fish stocks and their habitats, reconnecting fragmented waterways, and working with partners to solve problems. The national fish hatchery system raises and stocks more than 98 million fish every year to support recreational fishing, tribal subsistence fisheries, and the recovery and restoration of native and imperiled species.

Go fishing at a National Wildlife Refuge or National Fish Hatchery.

Fishing is available at 376 national wildlife refuges, 21 national fish hatcheries, and other U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed lands and waters. Find places to fish near you using this interactive fishing map. You can plan your next fishing trip at!

Learn more about fishing and conservation