California's fishing participation rate, once 15 to 20 percent, is now just 5 percent, the nation's lowest. And that's reflected in the swooning sales of fishing licenses, from 2.7 million in 1980 to just 990,000 last year.
The stats from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service have already spurred debate over why.
Much of the blame for the decline is aimed at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which has steadily raised the cost of licenses for a decade, and generally earns poor marks among consumers (the word "incompetent" comes up a lot) on a Facebook forum sponsored by the California Sportfishing League.
Chronicle outdoors columnist Tom Stienstra says of the forum:
"Of 66 comments, none supported the DFW. I asked the DFW executive leadership for their explanation why license sales have plummeted, as well as a response to these and other opinions, and while an answer was promised, none was provided."