The lockdown and continuing aftermath of the pandemic have been difficult for most people. Both on a personal and professional level, we've all seen some massive changes.
Personally although I used to be an avid angler, I haven't been on the water for while. Other commitments and the challenge of getting on the bank have kept me away, now though I'm more eager than ever to get back to the seclusion that fishing offers as well as the focus it requires to be successful. I was curious, am I the only one?
First port of call to check something like this is, of course, the internet so I took to reviewing google trends, a service which allows you to view popularity of a search term or topic over time. Looking at the term "Fishing" in the UK over the last 3 years we can see that the interest is cyclic in nature, as you might expect, with peaks between June/August and troughs around November/December.
If we look at this year however the peak is not only early, noticeable in mid-May, it's also huge. It's worth noting that these figures are relative to the highest point (100), so 100 indicates peak popularity of a term / topic.
To get a view on this from within the industry, I spoke to the owner of Horncastle Angling Centre, who as with a lot of businesses has experienced ups and downs during the pandemic.
They explained that they managed to keep trading steadily after lots of work setting up a click / collect service seeing "many new starters and returners to angling, along with our regulars". Though the major jump in interest came in mid-June when they "sold 30 gallons of maggots in just over a week, which we would normally do in a month!". From what they said they're not alone in seeing these increases either, with longstanding reps in the business stating: "never known the fishing trade to be like this".
It appears then that potentially these figures are indicative of a true surge in interest in angling, which if it continues would be great news. It's no secret that angling participation has been waning over the last ten years. You can see this by looking at the Environment Agency's rod licence stats which show licence sales steadily dropping over the last 10 years, with annual stats at 960k* in 2009/2010 down to 693k* in 2018/2019.
*Counting coarse licences, excluding day / 8-day licences.
It's also interesting to consider what other reasons would cause a jump like this. Some examples include:
If it's due to pent up demand you would expect figures prior to May to be much lower in 2020 than previous years but on average weekly figures are around 40 between 2018/2020 for Jan-April even if 2020 is on slightly lower at 39, so that doesn't add up.
A move to online shopping could explain the jump but if this is the case you might expect to see a slow increasing trend historically as the angling community increases its online spending. Looking back to 2004 though this trend isn't present and in fact there has been a slowly reducing interest. Although this isn't exactly definitive and movement to online shopping could still be a factor here.
I for one am hopeful that this renewed surge in interest continues moving forward, if it does there will be at least one positive thing to come out of this very challenging period.