Kayak Fishing Participation is Growing Fast

By Mike Stevens

The Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation recently released its 2014 report, and it shows that as a venue (shoreline, boat, riverbank, pier, jetty, etc), kayak fishing’s staggering growth continues. While 4.3 percent of the market share might not seem like much when you look at the whole list, when you do the math, that works out to about 38,872,000 kayak fishing outings last year.

According to the Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation, kayaks are used in 4.3 percent of all fishing trips.  Illustration: RBFF 2014 Special Report on Fishing.

According to the Recreational Fishing and Boating Foundation, kayaks are used in 4.3 percent of all fishing trips. Illustration: RBFF 2014 Special Report on Fishing.

That’s a lot of floating plastic, and a big gain year over year. In the 2013 report, the kayak stood at 3.6 percent.

We think the standard selling points still have a lot to do with the rapid growth: relatively low initial investment, miniscule operating costs and maintenance, versatility, the human powered factor, and even having an advantage over big boats in some cases.

Kayak fishing is also growing in the world of digital media, which can pretty much raise awareness about anything. You could fall down a ‘yak fishing rabbit hole on YouTube for hours watching quality videos with some real production value, and many of them are from regular-Joe anglers getting creative with their GoPro cameras. Add that to the online forums, social media platforms, groups and clubs, and the sport has no choice but to grow in popularity.

Kayak fishing is also squarely in an exciting time when boundaries are constantly breaking. Even a casual browse through the pages of this magazine’s website reveals fish size records being broken, more legit big game fishing accomplished from kayaks, guys paddling further and pioneering techniques in new bodies of water. It’s a work in progress that is accessible to anyone, and boat and gear innovation is keeping pace with that of the ever-experimenting kayak angler.

4.3 percent, projecting to almost 39 million kayak fishing outings last year. This information was on the bottom of a single page in the middle of an 85-page report, and while the sport continues its ascent, surely its prominence in such publications will increase accordingly. But right now, it feels pretty cool to feel like part of an elite society. We’re 20+ percentage points below pier and jetty fishing… but we are coming and coming quickly.

Wear your 4.3 percenter badge proudly.

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Tyler Hicks
October 22, 2014 3:21 pm

Chad – The statistics can add up to more than 100% because anyone one fisherman can participate in multiple venues. For example I may kayak fish one day and then fish from the bank the next.

Johnny Barlow
September 30, 2014 6:09 pm

I am sixty-nine years old, have been a kayaker for about twenty years. I have paddled and fished creeks, bayous, lakes, bays, rivers, swamps, and the coastal Gulf shorelines. I still enjoy it today. If you are looking for a new outdoor experience, you may want to look into this. I will say that before you go into deep waters, you should definitely take a course in how to kayak safety!

Marty Hughes
September 22, 2014 8:08 pm

This is only the beginning folks! The last two years have seen kayak fishing growing exponentially and with the interest in tournaments and online contests along with the digital exposure….LOOK OUT!

September 22, 2014 1:17 pm

I‘m a bit confused here, as the figures do not make much sense to me. Should this be read as percentage of growth or percentage of participation? If you total up the percentages, you get 177.2%; an unrealistic statistic if speaking of participation. You can‘t have more than 100% participation. I assume this is talking about overall growth in each of these areas.
In other words, kayak fishing has grown 4.3% over the past year, and is not necessarily 4.3% share in the fishing market.

September 22, 2014 9:46 am

I believe you guys missed the statistic that most influences the increase in participation in kayak fishing. Under the heading “Tools and Resources that Would Make it Easier to Fish”, 41.8% of people feel that easier and more affordable access to boats would make it easier to fish. You guys already said it, “relatively low initial investment, miniscule operating costs and maintenance”. Kayak fishing has become an obsesion for many, but for beginners, it is still the easy and affordable option for getting off the shore and on the water.

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