The Economic Impact of Freshwater Fishing in Florida

Although the value of recreational fisheries extends far beyond its economic impact, it is important to note that Florida's famed fisheries continue to be a major job creator and to attract millions of tourists.

Southwick Associates published the "Sportfishing in America: An Economic Force for Conservation, 2013" icon_PDF.gif (1.2MB) for the American Sportfishing Association. This report again documents that Florida is the Fishing Capital of the World. Florida ranked #1 with 3.1 million anglers (#2 New York had 1.9 million), and total expenditures of $5 billion (#1, vs. $2.7 billion for New York). Florida's role as the fishing destination for travelers was also overwhelmingly reaffirmed, with 2 million non-resident anglers visting the state (#2 Michigan had 347,000). The ripple effect of these dollars was an $8.7 billion economic impact from Florida's recreational fisheres that supported 80,211 jobs.

Specific to freshwater in 2011, Florida had 1.2 million anglers. They enjoyed 25.7 million days fishing (#2 Texas had 22.6 million), spending almost a billion dollars and generating an economic impact of $1.7 billion, which supported more than 14,000 jobs.

The actual reports are available from the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Related Recreation Survey: Preliminary National icon_PDF.gif (26MB); Preliminary State icon_PDF.gif (4.2MB); Florida Details icon_PDF.gif (8.3MB), and quick national facts icon_PDF.gif (4MB).

No wonder Florida is the "Fishing Capital of the World." External Website 

For comparison, the 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau studies are found at: "National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Related Recreation" icon_PDF.gif (4.2MB); state comparisonsicon_PDF.gif (2.6MB); Florida report icon_PDF.gif (7MB), and Southwick Associates summary of the national economic impacts of recreational fishing icon_PDF.gif (211KB). The Fish and Wildlife Service also provided a summary brochure icon_PDF.gif.

Freshwater Recreational Fishing License Sales:

License sales can be highly variable between years and are influenced by factors such as gasoline prices, the economy and weather conditions.  It is important to note that only about half of Florida anglers actually have to purchase a license due to various exemptions, so these numbers do not reflect participation.

In addition, the number of certified fishing license holders reported for Federal Aid in SportFish Restoration is less than the number of anglers (only license holders are counted), or total fishing privileges (since one person may hold multiple licenses). The certification reports External Website can be found on the Federal Aid site. 

Freshwater License Sales summary for FY 2012-13:





Grand Total

Complete Fishing/Hunting License sales summaries for the last fiscal year 2012-13  and previous years (2011-12 ) (2010-11) (2009-10) (2008-09)  (2007-08) and (2006-07) are also available with a more detailed explanation icon_PDF.gif

Sales Comparison 01-02 to 11-12

Click chart for an enlarged printable chart of license sales icon_PDF.gif


State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Report (SCORP):

 An alternate set of data discussing the value of recreational fishing and boating is compiled under contract with our sister agency, the Department of Environmental Protection.  The 2012 State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Report reveals the importance of fishing to both residents and non-residents. 

The study highlights the tight link between recreation and tourism in Florida, determining that 98 percent of Florida’s tourists believe that outdoor recreation is important to them, and 97 percent of tourists are satisfied with outdoor recreation opportunities in the state. Recreation has long served as an economic driver in Florida, as the state remains a major destination for national and international tourism. An estimated 82.3 million visitors made their way to the Sunshine State in 2010, resulting in $62.7 billion in total tourist spending and the creation of 947,700 jobs to support the tourism industry (VISIT FLORIDA, 2010).

Nearly all Florida residents (96 percent) say that outdoor recreation is important to them; this includes 72 percent who think it is very important and 24 percent who think it is somewhat important. The results are similar among tourists: 98 percent say outdoor recreation is important to them personally (65 percent saying very important and 33 percent saying somewhat important).

The resident survey asked each respondent whether he or she participated in each of 26 activities in Florida in the past 12 months. At the top, are saltwater beach activities (63%), wildlife viewing trips (49%), bicycling (44%), picnicking (40%), visiting historic or archeological sites (39%), and saltwater fishing (38%). (Note that participation in any fishing, either freshwater (28% only freshwater fish) or saltwater, is 46%, which ranks it third.)

More details are available from DEP's SCORP WebsiteExternal Website

License Trends from RBFF and the Outdoor Foundation:

June 2013 - The Special Report on Fishing & Boating, conducted by RBFF and the Outdoor Foundation, provides detailed information on participation by gender, age, ethnicity, income, education and geographic region. This fourth annual report gathered information on the fishing “churn” rate, potential new fishing participants and boating participation.
Final Report icon_PDF.gif


Hourly Expenditures:

The following hourly expenditure analysis is based on 2001 data (the latest broken down to this level of detail).  You can use an inflation calculator External Website to update these figures to the current year.  In 2001 dollars freshwater fishing in Florida was estimated to generate $1.057 billion in retail sales, which produced an economic impact of $1.962 billion.  This economic boon to the state of Florida sustained nearly 20,000 jobs and provided recreation for 1.316 million anglers (resident and non-resident), who spent 20.840 million days fishing.

Black bass anglers fished a total of 12.2 million days in Florida, for an average of 9.3 days per angler in 2001.  Black bass continue to be the most popular sport fish in the nation in terms of fishing effort.  In Florida black bass anglers fish an average of 19 days each year.  Nationally, an average angler spent $337 in trip-related expenses (food, transportation, bait, ice, etc.), $106 for fishing equipment (rods, reels, tackle boxes, etc), $18 for auxiliary equipment (clothes etc.), plus an average per year of $255 on special equipment (boats etc.), for a total of $716.  Bass anglers spent significantly more with a total of $949 in trip related expenses annually (See USFWS/Black Bass Report; icon_PDF.gif 1.1MB).

Southwick Associates also compiled some very interesting economic comparisons for the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation External Website and for the American Sportfishing Association icon_PDF.gif that puts this in perspective, for instance: "Annual spending by Florida anglers is five times greater than the cash receipts from the state's orange crop ($4.08 billion vs. $786 million).

Based on the survey done in 1996 (the last time this detail was available) an average angler spent $18.20 per hour fishing (high was for non-resident bass anglers at $43.89 and low was for resident cane pole fishermen at $5.94 per hour).

FWC Facts:
Approximately 1.7 million acres of Florida's remaining natural areas have been invaded by nonindigenous plant species, which have degraded and diminished our ecosystem.

Learn More at AskFWC