The word elicits a response from social media overlords, fact checking and links to the CDC with information about social distancing, masks, vaccines, more masks, and booster shots. But when you mention covid to anglers, they go fish. Even the Maryland Governor’s stay at home order in March 2020 couldn’t keep fishermen from wetting a line.
As covid continues, many family gatherings, outdoor activities, and sporting events have gone underground to avoid being labeled a “super spreader”. Rising above it all and keeping it real…and safe, families and friends chose fishing as the much needed escape from the incessant media and political coverage of things you could and couldn’t do. Tournaments continued on a limited basis and the 25th Annual St Jude Children’s Hospital Tournament was cancelled.
Always an inexpensive and accessible activity, during covid fishing hooked participants normally not even remotely interested. After every other form of recreation was shut down, fishing was wide open. Alexandria-based Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation’s (RBFF) 2021 Special Report on Fishing shows fishing grew in popularity with nearly 55 million participants, including 4.4 million first-timers. Fishing satisfies covid cops as being a safe activity. Picking up a rod relieves other covid symptoms, stress, and anxiety, enabling participants to focus on something outdoors that’s free from covid hype or hypodermic needles.
While covid has shut down the country, it has led new people to the water. Getting to the water is the first step toward fishing. Most first time anglers expected their trip to be relaxing. Spending time with family was the most common motivation to start fishing, according to the study. These newcomers have brought the fishing industry closer to its goal of reaching 60 million participants within the 60-month period ending in December 2021.
Fishing isn’t just a “guy” thing. This report says new participants are also diverse. Females are taking to the water with a 10% increase with nearly 20 million involved. This is key as angling moms are more likely to share their outdoors experience with their children, adding to the growing fishing population. Younger Americans, ages 6 to 17, also headed to the water with 13.5 million broadening the base support. This is a crucial indicator for fishing’s future as 88% of current anglers began fishing before age 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.
However, this growth hasn’t come without losing many fishing constituents. For whatever reason, people lose interest or just plain forget about fishing when it comes to allocating recreation time. In 2020, 17.5% of the total angling population, representing 8.8 million, did not fish. Taking advantage of the covid spurt, industry experts sought ways to keep fishing as a front of mind activity and to convert newcomers into loyal, repeat anglers.
To accomplish this retention program and to continue to attract a wide range of Americans to fishing, RBFF has partnered with Discover Boating for a second year of their Get On Board campaign. Promoting wellness benefits of fishing and boating, they supply customizable tools available at GOBToolkit.com. RBFF national Take Me Fishing™ and Vamos A Pescar™ campaigns, along with many state agency and boating and fishing industry partnerships entice target audiences to spend more time boating and fishing.
Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for RBFF, Stephanie Vatalaro says, “Over the last five years, our targeted outreach efforts and long-term planning positioned fishing well to handle the unique challenges and opportunities faced during 2020.” Vatalaro says Americans looked for safe ways to get out of their homes during the pandemic. “Fishing offered a socially-distant outlet for families and individuals to get outdoors and experience the wellness benefits of nature.”
Congress passed the Sport Fishing and Boating Safety Act in 1998, requiring the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior to implement a national outreach and communication plan to address recreational boating and fishing participation. RBFF was tasked to ensure boating and sport fishing legacies are never lost. Supported by advertising and public service announcements, public relations, and social media, takemefishing.org features how-to videos, state fishing license and boat registration information and links, and an interactive map to locate fishing and boating spots.
With more than two decades of outreach, the numbers are turning in favor of the fishing industry. More Americans are discovering that fishing is a pastime for spending quality time in a quality environment. If your goal is to introduce more people to fishing, Covid might be just what the doctor ordered.
Potomac River Bassing in October
Shallow crankbaits, like squarebills, on 12 pound test Gamma Edge fluorocarbon line cover water. Look for hard cover or scattered grass remnants and contact the cover and pause or in grass, snap free. Under cloudy skies with stained water or with a chop, spinnerbaits are great to use. Try the ¼ ounce size with gold blades and white skirts.
Soft plastics are always a good way to catch fish. Pitch shoreline cover at higher tides and ends of docks and laydowns when the tide falls. Same for grass beds. Try deeper edges at low tide and get into the grass when the tide is high. Texas rigged tubes and creature baits are best. In clear water try green pumpkin or watermelon. In stained water, black/blue patterns work. Thread onto a 3/0 worm hook with a pegged 3/16 ounce weight.
For the tougher bite, drop shot, split shot, and shaky head. Use 15-20 Gamma Torque braid with 10 pound test Edge leader. Work slowly on spinning gear.
There’s still topwater action to be had. Poppers on 10 pound test Gamma Torque braid can be cast a long way on spinning gear to cover water. Best at lower tides when there’s low light, clear water, and no chop.
Author Capt. Steve Chaconas is Potomac bass fishing guide. Potomac River reports: nationalbass.com. Book trips/purchase gift certificates: info@NationalBass.com.