Survey reveals real reason people go angling… and it’s not for the biggest fish

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.

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.

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 as a reason for going fishing than Coarse anglers, who were less motivated by physical activity. Many more Game anglers (34%) classified participation in their sport as high intensity physical activity as opposed to Sea (17%) and Coarse (11%) anglers.

These results demonstrate the need for further investigation into how angling, and particularly Game angling, contributes to increasing physical activity within society. Such research should include not only how much angling increases heart rate, but the therapeutic, rehabilitative qualities that participation can deliver.

Other research results indicated that Game anglers took part in more environmental and habitat improvement projects (38%) than Sea (20%) or Coarse (20%) anglers. The commitment of a sizeable proportion of Game anglers to improving the health of the environment is significant in the ecological and social benefits it can deliver for local communities. Social benefits can be enhanced further if efforts are made to engage with other community members as part of the process, so people develop a shared sense of pride in a local area.

Game anglers were also more involved in teaching or mentoring other anglers – a surprising result as Coarse angling is more often associated with coaching projects.

This research programme 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. This will help inform policy and make the case for funding support for angling groups.

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

Media Enquiries: Rowan Atkins M: 07834 158 725 E:

Notes to editors

‘The Social and Community Benefits of Angling’
This 3-year research project by Substance, funded by the Big Lottery Fund (, is a major, new research programme on the social and community benefits of angling. The research will be carried out by Substance, a social research cooperative, and is funded by the Big Lottery Fund research grant from January 2009 – January 2012. The research will investigate the roles angling can play for those who participate in it, young people and the communities in which it takes place.

Why Is the Research Needed?
Millions of people go fishing, but not much is widely known about the activity in terms of the particular benefits individuals, young people and local communities can get from it. There have been some big claims made about angling – that it has a range of benefits for participants (including health, volunteering, socialisation); that it can help young people in terms of education and social inclusion; and that it can help develop rural communities and local environments. Yet the evidence base for this work is underdeveloped and organisations involved, as well as policymakers, need more research to understand, develop and maximise angling’s profile. Those representing angling need such information to help ‘make the case’ for public and government support.

The project will work closely with angling and community organisations and charities, policymakers and anglers to help address gaps in knowledge and provide evidence of angling’s role to help influence changes in policy as well as highlight best practice.

Media Enquiries: Rowan Atkins M: 07834 158 725 E: