Fishing was one of the few sports where participation seemed to pick up when everything else went on pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Daily routines were halted, and people were encouraged to distance from one another. Fishing gave them a way to safely entertain themselves outdoors.
It’s also why mobile applications like Fishbrain became so popular.
Fishbrain (which also has desktop capabilities) allows users to document where they catch a fish, what they caught, the type of bait used and more, while giving them a way to socialize, share their experiences and help others get better at fishing.
Almost five years ago, Fishbrain had 2.2 million users after its 2013 launch. This year, the app has grown to more than 8.5 million across the United States. It’s no coincidence the Swedish company saw a surge during the pandemic.
During a year in which people spent more time on the water than they typically do, the app saw 21,138 catches logged between Tampa and St. Petersburg.
“At a time when millions of people have been plunged into lockdown, many people took up fishing as a responsible, socially distanced pastime,” Johan Attby, Fishbrain’s CEO, said in a statement.
In 2020, 15 percent of Florida’s total catches (151,158) came from the Tampa Bay area, which includes data from Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando counties, according to Fishbrain. There was a 6 percent increase from 2019, in which 20,862 catches in the area were recorded.
The fish caught the most in 2020 were largemouth bass (8,891), common snook (1,636) and red drum (1,508), according to Fishbrain’s records. The most successful fishing spots were the Sunshine Skyway (1,995 catches) and John’s Pass (1,896).
Lisa Kennelly, Fishbrain’s chief marketing officer, said the company also saw an increase in people using the groups feature to find new connections.
“We really saw those take off, and people really were looking for ways to connect,” Kennelly said. “People were organically forming these groups and sort of creating jokes and memes together. It was so cool to see people really trying to find that community.”
According to a 2020 Bloomberg report, Fishbrain saw an increase of 23 percent in its user base in April 2020 compared with a year earlier. The company also saw a combined 63.3 percent increase month to month in U.S. user registrations from April to July.
From 2019 to 2020, Fishbrain saw an overall increase of 25 percent in user registrations, Kennelly said, more than the company expected.
“It is heartening to see such a vast increase in catches in 2020 as Floridians turned to the water,” Attby said. “And I hope that this trend continues in 2021 as people come to realize the myriad of benefits fishing can have, from increasing mental well-being to forming new friendships.”