Maine Hunters Declining While Angler Numbers Are Up

While the number of Maine anglers has increased in recent years, the number of hunters continues to decline. Let’s start with hunters.

I looked at data from 2001 to 2017. Hunting numbers for residents was highest in 2003, at 166,675. In 2017, that total was just 131,404.

The numbers are beefed up a bit by lifetime license holders which total 24,626 for fishing, 2,950 for hunting, and 54,051 who have a combination hunting and fishing lifetime license.

Fishing license sales for residents in this time period peaked in 2016, at 189,896, and totaled 180,498 in 2017.

Nonresident fishing licenses peaked in 2016 at 84,673, and were 84,308 in 2017.

Nonresident hunters plunged from 40,558 in 2001 to 26,860 in 2017.

I think our freshwater fishing economy can continue to grow, if we market that opportunity effectively (there are lots of great places to fish in North America), I fear that hunting in Maine will continue to decline, for a variety of reasons.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.