The Face of Fishing: Younger, More Diverse, and Supporting Conservation by the Billions

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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 invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about 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.

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:

  • Female participation increased 10% to 19.7 million.
  • 13.5 million youth ages 6 to 17 hit the water, a crucial indicator for the future as 88% of current anglers began fishing before the age of 12.
  • 4.8 million Hispanic Americans went fishing in 2020, an all-time high.
  • African American participation increased by 14.6% year-over-year, comprising 7.7% of all anglers in 2020.


"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."

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

  • 200 species of fish being monitored or studied annually.
  • 169 new ramps constructed every five years to improve boater and angler access to the water.
  • 6,439 areas operated and maintained for public boating and fishing access.
  • 1 million students receive training in aquatic education every three years.
  • $650 million excise taxes derived from sportfishing expenditures that support conservation.
  • $752 million generated from state fishing license sales that support conservation.

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. 

Story Tags

Habitat conservation
Water conservation

Recreational Activities