Public attitudes towards angling have improved over the past five years with the majority of people saying they believe that angling is an acceptable pastime. There has also been a reduction in the number of people who think angling is unacceptable, according to the Environment Agency's latest 'Public Attitudes to Angling' survey.
Although there was a slight drop in the number of people who think that anglers care for the environment, there was a significant drop in those who disagreed that anglers care for the environment showing that public perceptions have become more positive
This was reinforced by an decrease in the number of people who think angling is cruel. Of 2,304 people who were interviewed, 52 per cent said they disagreed that angling was cruel - an increase from 47 per cent five years earlier - whilst the number of people who regarded angling as cruel fell from 24 per cent in 2005 to 20 per cent this year.
According to the survey, males were more likely to be positive about angling in general than females, which is perhaps related to the higher involvement and interest in angling amongst males. Young people, those aged between 12 and 16, are also still positive about angling in general, though likely to be less positive than adults. Perceptions of angling as an 'OK thing to do' were more positive in 2010 than 2005.
The survey showed that 13 per cent of the population over 12 years old said they had been either freshwater or sea fishing in the last two years - a total of 6.1 million people. It also showed that nine per cent of the population aged over 12 years - 4.2 million people - said they had been freshwater or sea fishing in the last year and that a similar number had been freshwater fishing in the last two years.
Other findings included that:
Eleven per cent (12 per cent in 2005) of the population, 4.9 million people, are classed as lapsed anglers in that they had been fishing in the last 10 years but not in the last two. This means that 20 per cent of the population (9.1 million people) had been fishing in the last 10 years.
Twelve per cent (10 per cent in 2005) of the population, 5.6 million people, were interested in going fishing in the future, even though they had not been freshwater fishing in the last two years. Of the total number of potential anglers, 67 per cent were classed as new potential anglers because they had not been fishing in the last 10 years, whilst 33 per cent were lapsed anglers.
Amongst 12 to 16 year olds, 22 per cent (19 per cent in 2005) had been freshwater fishing in the last two years, and another 23 per cent (20 per cent in 2005) were interested in going fishing in future. This means that in this age band, 45 per cent (39 per cent in 2005) had an interest in freshwater fishing which suggests there is a high level of unmet potential for future development of the youth market.
Only a third of recent anglers appear to have bought an Environment Agency Rod Licence in the last year, suggesting high evasion levels amongst anglers who fish infrequently or that 'going fishing' might mean accompanying an angler rather than personally fishing.
Today's anglers are currently predominantly male - 76 per cent now compared with 71 per cent in 2005 - with a relatively high proportion of anglers aged 12-24 years and a lower proportion of 55+ year olds.
People who were not current anglers but had expressed some interest in going fishing were asked
what factors would encourage them to go fishing. The primary factor, as in previous studies, was 'having someone to go with' (lapsed anglers 45 per cent, potential new anglers 35 per cent). In 2010, those who gave this reason were asked which of three statements best described why they would like someone to go with. The social side of fishing was emphasised ie. for company and, for new anglers, so was having someone to show them how to fish. Awareness and availability of local places to fish was another key factor, particularly for lapsed anglers. Having places where they could take children was also considered important.
Anglers can purchase their rod licences at around 15,000 Post Offices; by setting up a direct debit; over the telephone on 0870 1662662 or on-line at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence.