The status of competitive fishing in North America

Organized competitive sportfishing has been a growing use of fishery resources for at least the last 20 years. We conducted a survey of fishery agencies in Canada, the United States, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands to estimate the numbers and types of competitive fishing events in inland and marine waters and to determine fishery agency perceptions of the benefits and problems associated with these events. Based on survey responses, there were 20,697 competitive fishing events annually. Adjusting for agencies that did not provide estimates and incomplete reporting, we estimated that there were at least 31,000 competitive fishing events annually. Most competitive fishing events were for black bass in inland waters and billfish in marine waters, but events targeted many species of fish. In inland waters, events for species other than black bass appear to be increasing. Prevalent problems of competitive fishing perceived by fishery management agencies were stimulation and concentration of fishing effort, conflicts among user groups, and impeded access. Prevalent benefits of competitive fishing were economical acquisition of catch and biological data, promotion of recreational fishing, and communication between agencies and anglers. Our survey indicated the need for accurate (rather than estimated) and current data about competitive fishing and further investigations of sociological aspects, economic values, and biological impacts of competitive fishing events.