Enjoyed by millions of people around the world, sportfishing is a $42 billion industry in the United States alone. Outdoor enthusiasts like Anthony Simon of Houston, Texas, enjoy targeting fresh- and saltwater fish species; the thrill of the catch is the prize for this popular pastime. With so many bodies of water to explore, including backcountry streams and creeks to lakes, rivers, and offshore reefs, there is no lack of places to go when it comes to trying out sportfishing.
What is Sportfishing?
Sportfishing is the sport in which anglers target fish species with a rod and reel for the sheer thrill. Although there are competitive sportfishing tournaments, including tournaments with huge cash prizes and media attention, most anglers do it simply for the love of the sport and for the outdoors.
Sportfishing is divided into three major categories:
- Freshwater sportfishing – fishing in creeks, rivers, lakes, and ponds for the sport of targeting common freshwater fishes like bass, crappie, trout, pike, catfish, and panfish.
- Inshore saltwater sportfishing – fishing on or near coastal areas, including bayous, estuaries, bays, and shorelines. Inshore fisherman target fishes like spotted trout, redfish, flounder, jacks, snook, and tarpon.
- Offshore saltwater sportfishing – heading out to the deeper waters and structures offshore, fisherman equipped with serious tackle fish for sharks, sailfish, groupers, snapper, cobia, and tuna.
How Big is the Sportfishing Industry?
Depending on the type of fish targeted and the water conditions, anglers may choose from a wide variety of rods, reels, tackle, and baits. They may also use watercraft such as kayaks, open console boats, or offshore fishing boats. Because of the many different types of sportfishing, the industry itself is massive. According to Fishing Tackle Retailer, the business magazine for the industry, sportfishing attracts 33 million anglers, who spend $42 billion each year on fishing equipment, travel, lodging, food, and apparel.
Sportfishing Vs. Subsistence Fishing
For the most part, anglers who enjoy sportfishing do so merely for the chance to catch new fish species or to break their own personal record. These enthusiasts, like Karl Anthony Simon, rarely keep their catch, choosing instead to release fish back into the wild after snapping a few photos.
Subsistence anglers, on the other hand, use fishing as a means of supplementing their diets; in some areas, anglers may rely heavily on caught fish for food. Over time, this practice can deplete local fish stocks, potentially upsetting delicate ecological balances. Sportfishing, by contrast, is relatively eco-friendly; fish are not removed from their native habitats and continue to grow and flourish after release.
Popular Sportfishing Destinations?
From the Atlantic to the Pacific and everywhere in between, anglers have many options when it comes to participating in the thrill of sportfishing. Freshwater, inshore and offshore tournaments take place nearly every weekend during the spring and summer months. For those who participate for the pleasure of the sport, many choose to vacation to prime spots around the world. According to angler Anthony Simon, some of the top sportfishing destinations include:
- Riviera Maya, Mexico
- Pinas Bay, Panama
- The Florida Keys
- Venice, Louisiana
- Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala
When traveling for sportfishing purposes, anglers often choose destinations based on the type of fish they wish to target. This way, they can collect their own personal catch records and mark “bucket list” fish species off. Recreational anglers are as varied as the fish they target and help encourage the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts.
Article by Karl Anthony Simon