More people around Ohio and the nation are getting hooked on fishing, after two decades of decline for the sport.
A new report from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows fishing has become more popular over the past five years, with the number of anglers in the state reaching 1.4 million for an increase of 11 percent during that period.
The number of fishing licenses issued in Ohio also jumped last year to more than 865,000, or roughly 52,000 more than the previous year, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.
The growing participation in Ohio reflects a national increase in the number of anglers, a trend that wildlife experts had not anticipated.
“That was pretty much a surprise to us,” Richard Aiken, lead economist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the newspaper. “We were kind of thinking the downward trend was going to continue.”
The survey didn’t ask about respondents’ reasons for participating in fishing and other recreational activities, and the causes of the earlier decline and recent upward swing in popularity aren’t clear.
One reason could be that it’s a relatively inexpensive sport, which might have been appealing as the economy struggled in recent years and people became more cost-conscious. Another factor might be promotions and programs designed to lure anglers, old and new.
Bill Laughard’s guess is that a shift in the sport’s focus to more of a family view might have played a role. Laughard, who co-owns Gone Fishin’ Bait and Tackle in Cuyahoga Falls, said there’s been a steady, slow boost in business at the store, where items for sale include fishing rods that are pink or designed for children.
“The industry as a whole has started pushing it toward family,” Laughard said. “It’s not like it was in the ’50s and ’60s when it was the guy thing to do.”
But why has interest decreased since peaking around 1990?
“If we knew that, then we’d know how to fix it,” said Ohio Division of Wildlife spokeswoman Vicki Ervin.
Akron angler Richard Brubaker’s theory is that the slow pace and sometimes solitary style of fishing don’t mesh with the speed and technological distractions of modern society.
“People today don’t have the patience to fish,” Brubaker, 73, told the newspaper. “Some days, you’re going to hit it and some days you aren’t. You might as well enjoy it.”