Survey Shows NW Hunter, Angler Trends 1991-06

Mixed news over the long term for hunter and angler numbers in the Northwest.

Between 1991 and 2006, the number of bass and trout fishermen and deer chasers declined in Washington and Oregon overall, according to a recently released addendum to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.

However, those two and Idaho still have some of the highest participation rates in the nation for some species, and the number of Gem State bassers is actually up from the Bush I era.

Overall, the data is a reflection in national trends — long terms declines, but ripples in the woods and waters that buck trends.

“We want reviewers of this research to understand that while the generalization that hunting and fishing are declining in popularity is often heard, this report shows that the truth is more complicated,” said Richard Aiken, the USFWS’s lead economist for the study, in a press release. “This report aids those who want to point to positive aspects of participation in fishing and hunting in the U.S., and how recruitment and retention efforts can be designed to appeal to the correct demographic groups.”

THE DROPOFF AMONGST largemouth and smallmouth anglers was especially sharp in Washington between 1991 and 2006. They numbered 122,000 in 1991, 150,000 in 1996, 102,000 in 2001 and 75,000 in 2006.

Their numbers were more stable in Oregon –87,000, 73,000 63,000 and 70,000 — and actually grew in Idaho over the long haul –42,000, 73,000, 53,000 and 54,000.

Idaho’s bass angling participation rate was above the national average, which is 4 percent, but Washington and Oregon’s were below — and Washington’s was among the three lowest in the entire country.


Across the U.S., 13,139,000 fished for bass in 1991, 10,181,000 in 2006.

Trout angler numbers peaked in 1996 in Washington and Idaho (628,000 and 409,000) and were roughly similar in Oregon at their high points in 1991 and 2001 (428,000 and 417,000). In 2006, there were 337,000 fishers after rainbows, browns, lakers and brookies in Washington, 320,000 in Oregon and 258,000 in Idaho.

Still, participation rates throughout almost all of the West were twice the national average, which was 3 percent in 2006, and Idaho’s was one of the five highest.


Nationwide, there was just under 9.5 million trout anglers in 1991 and just over 7 million in 2006.

In the face of long-term declines in the popularity of fishing and hunting, deer hunting has actually been remarkably stable nationally. Over 10 million of us chased blacktails, whitetails and muleys in all survey years, with the highest number afield in 1996 (10,722,000) and fewest in 2006 (10,062,000).

Idaho and Oregon’s participation rates were up to twice the national average, which was 4 percent. However, Washington’s was below that.


All three states saw peak deer hunting participation in 1996 (Idaho: 183,000; Oregon: 221,000; and Washington: 214,000) and lowest numbers in 2006 (119,000; 164,000; 150,000).

Double-checking Washington’s numbers, according to the state Department of Fish & Wildlife’s 2006 game harvest report, 165,436 deer tags were purchased and 135,195 hunters went out that year.

USFWS’s data also shows that in 2006 there were more duck hunters in Idaho and Oregon than in 1991 (26,000 to 19,000 and 27,000 to 23,000), but the number of greenhead gunners in Washington dropped by nearly half between those years, from 35,000 to 18,000. All three states saw peak numbers during the 1996 survey. Oregon and Washington participation rates were above the national average, 1 percent.


USFWS also measured participation in catfish, flatfish, turkeys, rabbits, squirrels and dove, but at least in the Northwest, there are holes in the data that limit long-term comparisons.

And the survey looked at how many days anglers and hunters spent afield and how much we spend, and breaks out participation by income, education, location, race and gender, among other demographics.

It concludes:

The generalization that hunting and fishing are declining in popularity is often heard, but is not strictly speaking true. The growth in the fishing population has been higher than the growth in the U.S. population when the base year for comparison is 1955. Also, while participation in certain types of hunting and fishing is dropping, other types present a different picture.

Participation rates for flatfishing and saltwater anything fishing have held steady since 1991. The same is true for turkey and duck hunting. The number of deer hunters has been remarkably steady since 1991.

The shorter-term trends show a drop-off since the high-water mark of 1991. Since 1991 hunting and fishing participation has dropped significantly. But even in recent years there are areas of stability.

Several species hunter/anglers stand out. Turkey hunting is important because it is increasing in popularity at a time when outdoor recreation participation is decreasing. Duck hunting stands out because the demographics of duck hunters are so striking: urban, remarkably high income, and a preponderance of younger participants.

Flatfishing trends and demographics have similarities to those of turkey and duck hunting. Flatfishing participation has not decreased while all other species fishing has gone down, and participants tend to be urban and have remarkably high incomes. Unlike turkey and duck hunters, Hispanics and people 55 years old and older flatfish at a relatively
high rate.

Older white males have been the dominant demographic group for fishing and hunting for decades. Youth and women have recently gotten more attention as potential sources of new participants. Squirrel hunting and catfishing have the highest proportions
of young adult participants. Deer hunting and freshwater anything fishing have the highest proportions of women participants. Knowing their fishing and hunting preferences could be useful in any efforts to encourage participation


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