Randy Zellers Assistant Chief of Communications
LITTLE ROCK — Americans seem to have fallen back in love with the outdoors during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. With organized sports, spectator-fueled events and formal schools being shuffled to the side to slow the spread of the virus, time in the outdoors seems to have become a rediscovered gem to many people looking to escape cabin fever during self-imposed quarantines. Rods, reels, canoes, kayaks, mountain bikes and all other sorts of outdoors equipment has flown off shelves so quickly that manufacturers have been unable to keep up with demand.
But how many of these people are newcomers to the outdoors? Has the pandemic increased awareness of hunting and angling or is it just a matter of people suddenly finding time to do what they remember enjoying years ago? Is COVID-19 actually responsible for the uptick in sales or is something else at play? These are questions researchers at Louisiana State University and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission are looking to answer.
Recently, the AGFC helped distribute surveys to 25,000 randomly selected fishing license holders to gauge their motivations for fishing this year and to see if the disease has actually played a part in their decision-making process.
“We were looking at doing a study on our own, when we were contacted by Dr. Steve Midway at LSU,” said Jessica Feltz, human dimensions specialist for the AGFC. “He was already working on a study and had a handful of states already working with him.”
AGFC’s Fisheries Division then supplied Midway with contact information for 25,000 randomly selected license holders to be part of the survey.
“I want to strongly encourage anyone who was chosen to receive the survey to take the time to answer it and be as honest as they can about their answers,” Feltz said. “We’ve received a handful of questions asking if it was a legitimate survey, so we wanted to let people know it is going on.”
Feltz says survey participants will have a few weeks to supply their answers.
“It may help us understand ways to educate and motivate new anglers, and I think that’s exciting,” Feltz said. “And because many states are participating in the same survey, it will be interesting to see where Arkansas falls in regard to some of the answers.”
Anyone with questions about the survey is encouraged to contact Feltz at [email protected].