A fishery, by definition, has three components: the fish, the habitat and the user.
In recreational fisheries, anglers are the users. If you read this column regularly (and I hope you do), the content is about fish and habitat, sometimes delving into efforts to manage fish populations and habitat.
That’s by design, driven by my own interests and the management of Mississippi Sportsman. When I pick up a magazine or look at a website, it’s because I want to learn something that will help me catch fish.
This column shares recent information about anglers because a strong population of anglers is vital to healthy and productive fisheries.
Why do fisheries need a lot of anglers? When I’m fishing on a weekend and there is a boat on every one of “my spots,” I’m thinking we need fewer anglers, not more.
But here’s the deal.
First, every angler from 16 to 65 must purchase a fishing license. That revenue pays the salaries and operations of the fisheries bureau in Mississippi (and every other state).
Second, those dollars are increased substantially by Sport Fish Restoration dollars, excise and fuel taxes collected by the IRS, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and distributed to state fisheries agencies based on a formula that considers amount of water and number of anglers.
The bottom line: Good fishing costs money, and anglers fund fisheries management (which, by the way, includes providing access).
You might not like hearing that, but you get 365 opportunities to go fishing when and where you want every year for $10 to $45. That’s a blue-light special if there ever was one.
Now the news on anglers and their license buying and, presumably, fishing participation patterns. The data was collected over a 10-year time span from anglers in 12 states scattered throughout the country, including Mississippi.
The numbers that follow are averages for the dozen states:
* Forty-six percent of this year’s anglers will not renew their license next year.
* The average angler will buy a license in only 2.4 out of every five years.
* Forty-nine percent of anglers purchase a license only once in 10 years.
* Only 4 percent of anglers purchased a fishing license in each of the last 10 years.
Let’s think about this before I share some more results. I expect most people reading this are part of the 4 percent who purchase a license every year: You are the ones funding fisheries management.
Just think how much more revenue would be available for fisheries management if the “in-again-out-again” anglers bought a license every year.
And just think how much easier it would be to run a fisheries bureau if the management could count on sustained revenue in the future.
So, who stays and who goes? Who are most likely to renew their licenses?
* Only 45 percent of anglers 18 to 24 years old are likely to renew their licenses next year. The numbers steadily increase with age. Sixty percent of anglers 55 to 64 years old are likely to renew their license next year.
* While first-time anglers claim they will buy a license next year, only 32 percent actually do.
* Fishing is not as popular with young people. In 1991, 22 percent of 16- to 34-year-olds fished. In 2011, that number was down to 13 percent.
* Female and young anglers are less likely to renew their licenses than older, male anglers.
* Rural anglers are more likely to renew their license than suburban and urban anglers.
* Anglers in the Southeast have the highest renewal rate compared to other regions. Yes, Southerners like to fish. That’s the culture, but it’s also because anglers in the Southeast have the benefit of abundant, public-access fisheries resources. But guess what? More fisheries resources also raises the price tag of managing and providing access to them.
A simple and enjoyable way to contribute to quality fishing in the future — your future — is to introduce people to fishing and keep them fishing.
And not just your sons and daughters:. Invite your neighbor and their kids. Take someone from work.
And with the cool crisp weather of fall upon us, now is a perfect time.