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15 States Where Fishing Is Becoming More Popular

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Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock.com

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on Captain Experiences.

Fishing is among the nation’s most popular pastimes, with more than 50 million Americans going fishing each year.

The sport is enjoyable for participants of all ages and athletic abilities, easy to learn, and offers time to relax and enjoy nature, making it a great hobby for people from all walks of life.

Fishing has long been popular among Americans, but in more recent decades, the growth of fishing has also become an important component of conservation and habitat restoration efforts in the U.S. Revenue derived from fishing licenses helps finance federal, state, and local programs for wildlife protection.

State agencies directly use license revenue to fund wildlife agencies, while federal programs often use the volume of licenses sold per state as part of the basis for apportionments of federal wildlife funds. Governments also frequently generate revenue related to fishing in other ways as well, such as excise taxes on angling equipment.

In recent history, some U.S. states have seen more rapid growth in the popularity of fishing than others.

The following is a breakdown of fishing license growth by state. The analysis was conducted by Captain Experiences using data from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. For more information, refer to the methodology section at the end.

1. Massachusetts

Pittsfield Massachusetts lake
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +55.3%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +31.5%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +27.3%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +15.2%
  • Total fishing license holders: 273,849
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $6,947,055

2. Nevada

Incline Village, Nevada
Teresa Munson / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +46.6%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +18.4%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +37.9%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +24.3%
  • Total fishing license holders: 162,548
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $5,473,787

3. Rhode Island

Fishing boat
Andrei Orlov / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +44.5%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +286.9%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: -17.1%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +65.8%
  • Total fishing license holders: 96,703
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $878,138

4. Maine

Portland, Maine
Jo Ann Snover / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +28.2%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +31.2%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: -4.0%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: -0.6%
  • Total fishing license holders: 367,124
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $9,394,339

5. West Virginia

West-Virginia
By David T. Stephenson / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +27.3%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +36.1%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: -7.7%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: -14.1%
  • Total fishing license holders: 319,178
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $6,203,706

6. Colorado

Grand Lake, Colorado
By marekuliasz / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +18.3%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +27.3%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +44.6%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +56.3%
  • Total fishing license holders: 949,595
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $29,928,665

7. Georgia

Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia
PaulDaniel5010 / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +13.1%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +61.6%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +19.0%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +38.3%
  • Total fishing license holders: 1,114,640
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $15,747,703

8. Washington

Marina at Grays Harbor, Washington
Bill Perry / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +12.1%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: -7.8%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +6.7%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +3.3%
  • Total fishing license holders: 716,371
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $37,046,370

9. Arkansas

Fishing in Arkansas
IrinaK / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +11.1%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: -18.0%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +2.2%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: -8.5%
  • Total fishing license holders: 549,773
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $9,923,689

10. New Hampshire

Lake Winnipesaukee
By Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +10.9%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +13.0%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: -3.2%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +11.2%
  • Total fishing license holders: 180,404
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $7,402,413

11. New Jersey

Pine Barrens Lakes, New Jersey
By Donna A. Herrmann / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +9.6%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +6.9%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +0.8%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: -9.2%
  • Total fishing license holders: 194,128
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $5,791,962

12. Indiana

St. Joseph River, South Bend, Indiana
photo.eccles / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +8.4%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +21.2%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: -14.4%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: -16.9%
  • Total fishing license holders: 570,322
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $7,874,092

13. Kansas

Olathe, Kansas
Dana Arriaga / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +7.6%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +11.6%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: -15.1%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +16.0%
  • Total fishing license holders: 290,068
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $6,689,831

14. Tennessee

Chattanooga, Tennessee
Kevin Ruck / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +7.0%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +14.4%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +94.8%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +106.8%
  • Total fishing license holders: 982,700
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $43,678,425

15. New Mexico

Fly fishing Rio Chama New Mexico
Topher photo / Shutterstock.com
  • 5-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +6.4%
  • 10-year change in fishing license holders per capita: +41.8%
  • 5-year change in fishing license revenue: +20.7%
  • 10-year change in fishing license revenue: +26.2%
  • Total fishing license holders: 263,422
  • Annual fishing license revenue: $8,335,016

Methodology

Man studying data on his computer
Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock.com

The data used in this analysis is from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Hunting & Fishing Licenses Data. The latest data shown is for apportionment year 2024, which reflects license sales that occurred in 2022.

To determine the states where fishing popularity has grown the most, researchers calculated the percentage change in the number of fishing license holders per capita over the last five years. In the event of a tie, the location with the greater 10-year change in fishing licenses per capita was ranked higher.

This information only includes paid licenses that meet the requirements of the Dingell-Johnson Sport Fish Restoration Act. The data is not representative of individuals who obtain free licenses or who are not required to hold licenses.

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