Economy: Recreational Fishing - An American Pastime

From hoisting halibut from the depths of Alaska's frigid waters to fly fishing for tarpon in the shallows of the Florida Keys, our nation's coastal waters offer a large diversity of habitats and species for those seeking a saltwater recreational fishing adventure. This bounty supports a popular outdoor activity for about 12 million Americans annually between 2000-2009.

$19.5 billion

Amount spent by saltwater anglers in 2009, which ultimately supported over 327,000 U.S. jobs.

Source: NMFS, 2011c

69 million

Number of marine recreational fishing trips taken in the U.S. in 2011.

Source: NMFS, 2013


Percent of the 345 million marine
recreational fish caught that were
released alive in 2011.

Source: NMFS, 2013

201 million

Estimated total
weight (in pounds) of 140 million fish harvested in 2011.

Source: NMFS, 2013

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Download Recreational Fishing Interactive Map and Data (2.13mb)

Source: National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Science Technology, 2013b

About this Topic

Saltwater recreational fishing is a popular outdoor activity for over 12 million Americans annually in the United States. Marine recreational fishing data is summarized for each state and is broken down by numbers of fish species harvested and released (catch and release) and by years harvested (1981 to 2011). This data, provided by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the estimated total marine recreational catch was nearly 345 million fish in 2011, of which almost 60 percent were released alive. Florida led the nation in number of fish caught. All of this data can be downloaded in comma separated value format. Download Recreational Fishing Data (CSV). In addition, two Management Success stories are presented; one on Improving Data Collection: The Marine Recreational Information Program and the other on Rebuilding the Striped Bass Fishery on the Atlantic Coast. Finally, there are two Case Studies presented, titled Goliath Grouper - History Sheds Light onto Recovery Goals and Recreational Anglers - An Economic Perspective.