Fishing as a stereotypical "dad sport" is no longer accurate
Ann Arbor, Michigan - Recent research shows the stereotype that fishing is a "dad sport"
is no longer accurate. Building on earlier research that found the number of people
who fish has been steadily declining, a new study conducted by researchers at Michigan
Technological University (MTU) and funded by the Great Lakes Fishery Commission
(Commission), sought to evaluate the shifting demographics within the angling community
and determine how the changing composition may impact fishery management decisions.
Among the major findings is that female fishers make up a growing proportion of
anglers in the Great Lakes region as younger generations of women are more likely
to fish than were their mothers and grandmothers. The increasing number of female
anglers in the younger angling community, however, is not sufficient to reverse
the overall decline in anglers.
Each year, approximately 1.8 million recreational anglers fish the Great Lakes.
Millions more fish inland lakes and streams across the Upper Great Lakes region.
Anglers play a critical role affecting the region's fisheries, their related ecosystems,
and fisheries management practices and policies. Dr. Richelle Winkler, the principal
investigator for the study, and PhD student Erin Burkett, examined changes to the
angling population by looking at the recent trends in anglers through various demographical
lenses such as gender, age, time period, and birth cohort. The researchers looked
broadly at the total population of all anglers in the upper Great Lakes states (Illinois,
Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin), as well as a subset of those anglers
in who specifically fish salmon and trout in the Great Lakes.
One of the key findings of this study was that while the stereotype that most of
the people who fish are older (born before 1965) is true, the stereotype that fishing
is a man's sport, does not hold true in younger generations. On the contrary, the
research found that in the younger angler community (those born after 1980), males
are less likely to fish than their predecessors and females are more likely to fish
than prior generations. The only exception to this finding is that in states that
offer a spousal fishing license, older generation females (born in the late 1950s
and 1960s) also show high participation rates, in correspondence with a male spouse.
This means that as the current angling community grows older, and is increasingly
replaced by newer generations, the number of male anglers is projected to decline
and the number of female anglers is projected to remain stable or increase over
the next fifteen years. It is important to note, however, that the increase in female
anglers will not be sufficient to supplant the overall decline in anglers.
"If these patterns of change in composition of the Great Lakes angling community
continue, they could have significant implications for agency funding, habitat programs,
and development and implementation of fisheries management strategies," explains
Dr. Winkler. Previous research by Winkler projected more dramatic declines in the
population of hunters in Wisconsin and Michigan. Winkler emphasized the importance
of conducting population projections for these two groups: "Because hunters and
anglers together provide the majority of state fish and wildlife funding programs
and represent the most active stakeholder groups, the combined impact of hunter
and angler decline and cohort replacement could be substantial for state fish and
Winkler added: "As the angler population becomes increasingly female, managers and
policy-makers will have to consider how to engage female anglers more actively as
constituents and decision-makers. Recruitment, retention, and reactivation programs,
known as "R3," might focus on retaining the relatively large number of currently
young women who are now fishing through their adulthood, for example through a targeted
marketing program or by facilitating opportunities for women to continue to participate
as they take on careers and become mothers. Women tend to put their own recreational
interests on the backburner when family and work demands increase, so it will be
important to find ways to help women manage that burden if they are to continue
to fish through their life. Moreover, further research should focus on ways to engage
stakeholders, beyond the anglers, in fisheries as the number of future anglers is
likely to decline."
In looking at salmon and trout anglers of the Upper Great Lakes, the study did not
investigate differences in gender composition within this subset of the angling
community, but did conclude there were analogous generational trends to the broader
community in two of the three Great Lakes studied. Older generations of salmon and
trout anglers were significantly more likely to participate than newer generations
in both Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. In Lake Superior, however, there was no clear
distinction between generations. Looking towards the future, the salmon and trout
angler populations are projected to decline in Lake Huron and Lake Michigan, while
Lake Superior populations are expected to remain stable. This trend could be indicative
of the quality of the fishery, which has declined in recent years due to decreasing
alewife populations, or it may be more related to the past condition of the fishery
whereby Lake Huron and Lake Michigan provided abundant salmon fishing opportunities
at the time when the Baby Boomers came of age and started fishing. This opportunity
might have come at just the right time to create a stronger cohort effect in these
lakes than what we see in Lake Superior, which didn't experience the proliferation
of pacific salmon.
Great Lakes Fishery Commission chair Jim McKane reiterated the importance of this
type of research and applauded Winkler's approach to evaluating the implications
these findings may have for fishery management in the future. "The Great Lakes region
supports a $7 billion fishery. To manage this important resource in a proper and
comprehensive way, fishery managers need to know their audience and appreciate who
their stakeholders are. Research, such as this study, is critical to informing the
development and implementation of policies and strategies that are meant to maximize
the value of the fishery and people's ability to use it."
More information about this project, including reports and maps for each state and
lake, as well as access to all demographic data collected as part of this study,
can be found here:
Lakes Fishery Commission is an international organization established by
the United States and Canada through the 1954 Convention on Great Lakes Fisheries.
The Commission has the responsibility to support fisheries research, control the
invasive sea lamprey in the Great Lakes, and facilitate implementation of A Joint
Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries, a provincial, state, and
tribal fisheries management agreement.