Tackle industry group celebrates growth in fishing

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is celebrating its 80th anniversary today with the opening of the annual ICAST trade show in Las Vegas, Nev., where "all things fishing are gathered under one roof," in the words of Greg Wollner, chairman of the ASA Board of Directors.

Wollner, executive Vice President of Rapala, said the 56th annual trade show is the biggest in the history of the sport, partly because it now includes the International Fly Tackle Dealers show, which formerly was held separately from ICAST.

Wollner's comments came during the annual State of the Industry breakfast, which celebrated several milestones marking a resurgence in recreational fishing in recent years.

For one remarkable example, Americans went on 1 billion fishing outings last year, noted Frank Peterson, president and CEO of Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation (RBFF). Reporting on a recent RBFF survey, Peterson also reported that participation in sportfishing by women was up dramatically, to the point that one fourth of all anglers are females. He noted an increase of 160 percent among young anglers as well. 

The RBFF survey builds upon the recently announced 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife survey, conducted every five years, which shows that recreational fishing participation grew for the first time in decades. Recreational fishing was 11 percent, accorfding to the research.

Much of this good news, according to Mike Nussman, president and CEO of ASA, can be credited to several ASA-fostered programs, especially including RBFF and its Take Me Fishing programs. (For an example of what Take Me Fishing is about, go to www.bassmaster.com/where-to-fish.) "Recreational fishing was up 11 percent in that survey," Nussman said, "after years of stagnant or no growth. This increase is in large part because of Take Me Fishing."

Nussman noted that the sportfishing organization was founded 80 years ago to help stabilize the industry through the Great Depression. It continues to work today to help sportfishing manufacturers cope with the Great Recession.