There’s no doubt that saltwater fishing is big business. According to NOAA’s Fisheries service, saltwater angling supported 439,000 jobs and generated $63 billion in sales across the U.S economy in 2015, an increase of 5% on sales from 2014. The highest fishing sector job growth rates were in Mississippi, Connecticut, South Carolina, Washington, and Alaska in 2015.
Saltwater fishing has been enjoying a period of growth over recent years, according to the 2016 Special Report on Fishing produced by the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation. The report shows that 11.8 million Americans participated in saltwater fishing in 2010; by 2015, that figure had increased to 12.0 million, making the rate of growth around 1.7 percent.
Manufacturers of saltwater fishing boats have seen increased sales that are due to both the increase in popularity of saltwater fishing, and also due to a surge in the number of people purchasing saltwater fishing boats as recreational boaters rather than anglers. The reported number of boats sold was higher than the numbers of anglers, and the National Marine Manufacturers Association reports that saltwater fishing boats now account for 14 percent of new powerboats sold in the U.S.
The technological innovation in their design is partly responsible for driving this growth, along with excellent fuel economy and improvements in outboard power. Features like joystick docking mean that new boaters and boating enthusiasts, who can’t spend regular time on the water and may be less skilled, can still be confident that they can dock in difficult conditions.
Combined with the wide range of design features available such as cup holders, ice chests, better and more comfortable seating, expanded storage and swim platforms, saltwater fishing boats are appealing more and more to families using them for recreational boating. Aside from recreational users, saltwater fishing boats are also popular with boat clubs because of their versatility as they will attract anglers and casual boaters alike.
It’s larger boats that are particularly gaining in popularity, with the 32-foot category boasting a year on year increase of 41.91 percent. Center consoles are driving the growth, as they provide a lot of versatility and space for manufacturers to play with for adding more features to attract the recreational users. The center console market is growing very fast, with numerous brands including luxury brands all competing and innovating to drive growth.
The appeal of center consoles spans across generations too, with both baby boomers and millennials seeing the versatility of a center console boat as essential, with a fishable center console and all the added benefits that you don’t get with a dual console boat. Millennials are particularly looking for the technological innovations too, which heavily influence their purchasing decisions.
This trend for growth in saltwater fishing boat sales is expected to continue over the next few years. There are still a couple of factors are creating barriers industry-wide, however, such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and government regulations. To drive visibility of the marine industries impacts on the U.S economy, the National Marine Manufacturers Association has been working with The Outdoor Recreation Industry Roundtable. This coalition of recreational industries is working to gain a higher status for all outdoor recreational industries to drive tourism and industry growth.