In recent years, the State of California has passed laws and regulations denying recreational anglers prime fishing spots in the Pacific Ocean, and California lakes and streams.

In order to defend Californians’ access to coastal waters and lakes, millions of dollars have been spent in legal battles with limited success. This is why sportfishing clubs and small businesses dependent on fishing have joined together under the banner of the California Sportfishing League so that we can influence the outcome of public policy.

California Fishing Facts

  • Fishing contributes to California’s $244 billion leisure and travel sector, providing considerable economic value to communities dependent on outdoor recreation/tourism.
  • According to a report by Southwick Associates, sportfishing contributes over $4.6 billion to California’s economy annually.
  • According to a study conducted by the California Sportfishing League, California has one of the most costly fishing licenses in the Nation. Since 1980, annual fishing license sales have decreased over 56%, while the state’s population has increased over 60% during the same period.
  • In fact, only 4.3% of California adults fish, which ranks dead last among the 50 States (U.S. of Fish and Wildlife Service).
  • While there are over 2.7 million anglers in California, the high cost of fishing and limited access is contributing to a declining fishing participation rate.
  • As a consequence of declining fishing license sales, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (DFW) Fish and Game Preservation Fund experienced a $20 million deficit in 2017
  • Declining revenue has also impacted the quantity and quality of fish stocking. From 2012-16, the number of fish stocked by DFW has declined 39% and the number of pounds has decreased 50%.  (Click Here for Stocking Data)


While there are many contributing factors as to why sportfishing is on the decline, there is no question that California’s tough regulatory environment has accelerated this decline. As a direct result of California’s regulatory regime and the power of anti-sportfishing  organizations, sportfishing’s positive economic impact on businesses and communities has diminished.

Restricting Access to Our CoastlineThe California Marine Life Protection Act limits or prohibits recreational angling in the most productive waters of California’s ocean coastline.

Fish Stocking Regulations – As a direct result of an overarching effort by the DFW and third parties to eliminate private fish stocking in California lakes and streams, the State has proposed regulations for fishing lake operators and private fish farmers that will make freshwater fishing cost prohibitive and diminish access throughout California.

Eliminating Fishing Holes – Under the auspice of “species protection” and “historical purity,” the DFW has begun cleansing remote lakes of fish in favor of amphibians, despite fish’s long history and critical role in today’s ecosystem. These programs destroy some of California’s favorite and most pristine fishing holes.

Banning Traditional Fishing Customs – Efforts are underway to ban lead fishing tackle and lures, and fishing contests! Lead tackles and fishing contests have been a part of fishing for ages, and both help support fishing’s $4.6 billion annual contribution to our state’s economy.

Southwick & Associates Study

In 2018, the California Sportfishing League commissioned Southwick Associates to conduct the study “Considerations Regarding 365-Day Fishing Licenses” to examine whether calendar or 12-month fishing states have experienced greater growth in sales and revenue.

Southwick Associates is a market research, statistics, and economics firm, specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation markets. For more than 25 years, Southwick Associates has delivered comprehensive insights that have advanced strategic decisions across the entire outdoor community; from resource agencies, industry associations and non-profit organizations, to utilities, outdoor manufacturers and businesses.

Southwick Associates has extensively researched state fishing and hunting licenses. They were the first to access state license databases to determine “churn” or license renewal rates, greatly expanding states’ understanding of the license buying process and improving state license marketing and sales efforts.

Click here to read the study.


No single fishing club or fisherman can stop these threats.  But together, as members of the California Sportfishing League, recreational fishermen and the businesses that depend upon them can to protect their sport from unnecessary government restrictions, and support policies that encourage fishing throughout California.

If you’d like to help support CSL’s efforts to protect sportfishing in California, please donate here.