Perhaps one of the more unexpected sporting revelations to emerge over the last couple of years is that Americans are increasingly happy to turn to the solitude and natural scenery that comes with fishing. Sure, we saw digital crowds and even the rise of eSports, but fishing traditionally only appealed to a certain demographic, generally speaking, yet has seen an uptick in participation through to this year.
In Florida alone, there’s a whole host of fishing tournaments on the way in early 2023. The Islamorada SailyFly tournament, Holly Sailfish Tournament, IFC Captain’s Cup, and Key West Kingfish Mayhem bring the schedule to mid-January alone and are expected to have even more interest than usual. It’s not just at the lakes and on deck that fishing has seen a surge in popularity, either, with entertainment media helping to feed the sport
Rise of modern fishing entertainment
The first place in entertainment media that you can see as an indicator of fishing’s ever-rising popularity is the online casino. Here, among the favorites, Big Bass Splash and Fishin’ Frenzy: The Big Catch Jackpot King reign supreme. They’re the more popular of the ever-growing selection of slots in a fishing theme, and as they prove more popular, developers opt to create more with fishing themes and special fishing features.
Another, more traditional, place to look in entertainment is TV or streaming. Fishing TV shows, be they reality TV or documentaries, have had their audiences on documentary channels. The Deadliest Catch, Wicked Tuna, River Monsters, and Extreme Fishing come to mind, but now, there’s even a dedicated platform. The streaming site Fishing TV offers a simply huge range of fishing shows, from Big Fish Adventure to Yucatan Anglers TV.
As far as watching the sport itself on TV goes, Major League Fishing remains the titan. In 2020, it was reported that the sports show averaged around 97,000 viewing households and the vast majority of all viewership hours for bass fishing programs. In 2021, the numbers came in to show that nearly one million households tuned into the events of Major League Fishing, giving CBS Sports far more viewers than Fox’s Bassmasters show.
A rod, line, and the great outdoors
Interest in fishing media continues to climb, and the numbers suggest that participation has not only been on the rise but will also continue to do so when 2022 statistics come out. In 2021, it was reported that over 40 million Americans went freshwater fishing, with a further 14 million saltwater anglers also being counted. While these figures show a small freshwater decline, they are up on 2019 stats for saltwater fishing.
Participation was at record highs in 2020, with solitude being required, but it’s impressive to see that numbers have remained high even with more traditional team sports and the like becoming available again. In 2020, nearly 55 million anglers took to the waters in the US, but the roughly 54 million who cast a line in 2021 still marks an increase from pre-2020 numbers.
Helping to enhance the intrigue with entertainment media will have been social media over the last several years. Particularly with more people now taking up angling, big and intriguing catches are getting more reach on social media beyond the usual angling circles and groups. A prime example is the rare blue lobster caught in Maine that went viral.
Fishing remains very popular across the US, and with such a strong following and an ever-diversifying group of participators, there’s a good chance that the sport will hold or even become bigger in 2023.