A national angling survey has revealed that the main reason millions of anglers go fishing in the UK is not to net a record fish but to escape crowds, de-stress and experience nature.
Of the thousands of anglers who took part in the survey, approximately 90% said that experiencing nature and scenery was important, very important or extremely important to them; while 88% rated escaping crowds and noise as an important, very important or extremely important motivation. These two results position angling as an antidote to the stresses of modern life and a contributor to personal wellbeing.
More than half of the sample (56%) did not rank catching big fish as an important reason to go fishing, while 69% did not rate catching lots of fish as an important motivation.
These are surprising findings that contrast with popular media representations of angling, where impressively-sized fish regularly feature in angling magazines and websites - the significant press coverage given to the death of ‘Benson’, the 29kg ‘celebrity’ carp earlier this year being one example.
Over 2,400 anglers took part in the online questionnaire which is part of a major, three year research programme, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, and being undertaken by Substance, an independent, not-for-profit social research company.
Other research results indicate that going fishing today is not just about casting a line and reeling in a fish; it contributes to wider societal benefits. The survey reveals people are engaging with angling in diverse ways such as undertaking environmental improvements on waters (25% of anglers), mentoring young people or maintaining an angling club website.
Cultivating a deeper understanding of how individuals are involved in fishing will help identify the contributions the sport makes to personal, community and environmental health and well being. This will help inform policy and make the case for funding support for angling groups.
The survey also exposed major differences between fishing disciplines. Game anglers, and to a lesser extent Sea anglers, placed greater importance on the active side of the sport than Coarse anglers, who were less motivated by physical activity. Many Game anglers viewed their sport as highly active.
Although Coarse anglers were less motivated to go fishing in order to be physically active, the research revealed the importance of Coarse angling to individuals who have restricted mobility due to age, health or permanent disability. Coarse angling can provide restorative benefits for those suffering health problems, and can be important to the independence of people with a disability.
These results demonstrate the need for further investigation into how angling contributes to increasing physical activity within society. Such investigation should include not only how much angling increases participant heart rate, but the therapeutic, rehabilitative qualities that angling participation can deliver.
Other research results indicated that Game anglers took part in more environmental projects than Sea or Coarse anglers. Game anglers were also more involved in teaching other anglers – a surprising result as Coarse angling is more often associated with coaching projects.
66% of anglers thought it was either extremely important or very important that more women get involved in angling.
The research engages the Environment Agency, Angling Trust and the Angling Development Board of Scotland and Substance are collecting information to build a clear picture of how people in England and Scotland are involved in angling and the benefits individuals and communities receive from it.
Dr Adam Brown, Director of Substance, who is leading the research, commented: “We’re very excited about the issues raised by the survey results and we will be addressing these in more detail in the next stage of research. We’re also keen to involve individuals who fish on a more casual basis, for example whilst they are on holiday, in the next phase, so we can build up a complete picture of how both experienced and less regular anglers participate in the sport.”
Four Interim Reports for the Social and Community Benefits of Angling research project are now available online at www.anglingresearch.org.uk