Angler Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation: The Future of Fisheries and Aquatic Conservation

Chapter 10. Design, Implementation, and Evaluation of Angler Education Programs

Doug Darr, Andrew Branson, and Leslie Burger

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781934874738.ch10

Anglers contribute directly to the conservation of aquatic resources through recreational expenditures (USFWS and U.S. Census Bureau 2018) and indirectly through social and political support (Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and Wildlife Management Institute 2019). Without this support, fish and aquatic ecosystems would not receive the management or protection at current beneficial levels. Since the 1980s, the number of anglers has shown a general decline, although recent surveys in 2011 and 2016 showed promising increases in angler numbers and percentages as compared to 2006 (USFWS and U.S. Census Bureau 2018).

In this chapter, we examine factors that are contributing to declining participation in angling and discuss strategies that can be used to reverse the decline, particularly angler education programs. These programs are a critical component of ongoing angler recruitment efforts. We examine the components of these programs, discuss how these components fit within the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model, and then provide a detailed examination of program planning and implementation. We close with discussion of the critical step of program evaluation.

The reasons for the long-term downward trend in angling participation are numerous and varied but can be reduced to four main factors: (1) increasing urbanization of society, (2) competition with other activities, (3) lack of mentors, and (4) life changes that alter leisure behavior. Each entails its own challenges and opportunities.

The United States has become more and more urbanized, and the percentage of the nation’s population that lives within metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) has increased. The highest percentage of anglers per capita are found outside of MSAs. However, because of the number of people in MSAs, more total anglers are found in MSAs than outside of them, which provides recruitment opportunities for conservation organizations (USFWS and U.S. Census Bureau 2018).

Urbanization has reduced the quality of local fishing areas (Coles et al. 2012), provided more alternative recreational activities, and diluted fishing traditions among residents (Floyd et al. 2006; Balsman and Shoup 2008; Responsive Management and RBFF 2019). It has reduced the availability of local, public, fishable waters to anglers, although urban waters can offer close-to-home opportunities that may be in walking distance to many anglers.