Study: High school fishing clubs could fuel angling economy

Collaborative report finds youth organizations could be a shot in the arm for diversity and urban participation.

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia—High school fishing clubs help boost the recreational fishing economy and could help diversify the nation’s angling population. These were among the findings of a research project commissioned by several angling organizations; the full report was published in January 2019.

Most high school students who join fishing clubs typically come from families where angling is already a regular activity, the commissioned report stated.

“Club members are generally clustered in the Midwest and South, and reside in rural/semirural areas. These fishing clubs primarily attract avid anglers who had fishing experience before joining the club. Family lineage remains a strong influence, as most club members were introduced to fishing by their parent or grandparent,” the study’s researchers said.

Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation (RBFF), the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S.), Fishing League Worldwide (FLW) and the Student Angler Federation (SAF) commissioned the research project.

Researchers wasted no time in stating members of high school fishing clubs hail from a monotonous demographic.

“High school fishing club members’ demographics represent the typical avid angler: white, male and non-Hispanic,” the study’s researchers stated.

The study specifically found 93 percent of participants in high school fishing clubs were male; 95 percent of those who joined high school fishing clubs were white.

Introducing high school fishing clubs in urban/metropolitan areas could go a long way in diversifying the youth angling base. The study also found high school fishing clubs improve angling skills and boost tackle sales.

“Clubs appear to stimulate tackle sales. The average club member spent $658 on fishing tackle in 2018, compared to $332 for non-club members of the same age,” according to a statement released by RBFF staff. “Clubs appear to advance participants’ fishing skills.

Prior to joining, on average students rated their skill at 5.6 on a scale of 1-10, and currently rate their skills at 7.7. Club members went fishing 20 or more times in the past 12 months.”

Almost all club members – 99 percent – had prior fishing experience before joining, the study continued.

Only six percent of those who responded to the study’s survey lived in an urban area.

The study’s researchers stated boat clubs and fishing clubs should partner together, “to increase access.” They also stated clubs should be introduced into urban areas “to diversify club membership.”

Funding and staffing, however, were significant barriers to continuing or expanding fishing club opportunities, according to the report.

“When establishing/running the club, half of club leaders reported that funding was an issue,” the published report stated. “When looking to the future, club leaders’ main concern is finding coaches and volunteers.”

Another potential barrier to entry: equipment or a fishing boat.

“For a minority of clubs, participation in a club is limited to students from families with adequate financial means,” researchers stated, adding 32 percent of club required its members to have a boat (or access to a boat).

Nearly one in three club leaders denied student membership to those who did not have access to a boat, according to the study’s results.

Almost half of high school clubs (48 percent) required its members to have his or her own fishing equipment. A handful of those clubs – seven percent – reportedly denied membership to those who could not provide their own fishing equipment.

A Feb. 21 article published online at, interestingly enough, quoted RBFF Vice President Stephanie Vatalaro as saying more women are participating in recreational fishing.

“Despite a perceived lack of representation in the sport of fishing, 45 percent of last year’s new fishing participants were female, and that number continues to grow,” Vatalaro was quoted as saying in

Her comment was reportedly made in front of a few hundred people at the Miami International Boat Show.

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