Great Lakes States Angler Demographics

man with fish Photo Credit: Andy Roth

Each year, approximately 1.8 million recreational anglers fish the Great Lakes. Millions more fish inland lakes and streams across the Upper Great Lakes region. Anglers play a critical role affecting the region’s fisheries, their related ecosystems, and fisheries management practices and policies. However, a growing body of research suggests that anglers across the Upper Midwest are declining in number and aging, which could have dramatic implications for agency funding, habitat programs, and fisheries policy and management strategies.

This website brings together detailed demographic data on the angler population across the five US states (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin) that border the Upper Great Lakes (Lake Huron, Lake Michigan, and Lake Superior). It includes data and analysis at both the state-level and the lake-level for each of the Upper Lakes. Supported by funding from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, researchers in the Great Lakes Research Center at Michigan Technological University partnered with representatives of each state’s Department of Natural Resources to pull together consistent data (based on fishing license sales records) that can be compared across states/lakes, by sex (male/female), and by single-year of age over time.

These data (and related analysis and maps) are available for public download here.  We hope that users, from fisheries managers to fishing club members and charter boat captains to researchers and anglers themselves, will find these reports, maps, and data useful for understanding how angler populations are changing over time and how they might be expected to change further in the coming years.

What You Will Find on this Site

Data, maps, and reports are available at the lake-level (Great Lakes), for each state, and for the five-state region as a whole by clicking on the links below:


Brief reports that summarize, analyze, and interpret key demographic trends by age, sex (female/male), time period, and birth cohort (generation) are available for each of the five states in PDF format. These are a great place to get an overview of how angler populations are changing, how newer generations are different from prior ones, characteristics of anglers who fish the Great Lakes for salmon/trout, differences between males and females, geographic patterns of fishing participation, and projections of future angler populations.


A Mapbook includes a set of 49 maps which show county-level patterns of angler participation across the Upper Great Lakes states, in PDF format. The maps show the number of anglers, numerical change in anglers, angler participation rates, Great Lakes salmon/trout angler participation rates, and change in participation rates over time by county of residence and sex. Each of the individual maps are available for download as a .jpg file. Maps for download are organized by state, Great Lake, and into those that show the region as a whole.


Data include estimates of the number of in-state resident recreational anglers from the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. They also include estimates of the smaller subset of anglers who fish the Upper Great Lakes (Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, or Lake Huron) or their tributaries for salmon/trout by state of residence and separately by lake fished. All estimates are broken down by single year of age, sex, and year (2000-2016, varies by state). Data are provided in .csv format which is compatible with Microsoft Excel and other data management and statistics programs. Data are also provided in .dta format for use in Stata Data Analysis and Statistical Software. Metadata, including variable names and labels, are provided in .csv for importing into statistics program. Metadata are intended to be machine readable data labels but not a replacement for the complete information provided in the documentation.

A Word of Caution

Data are most accurate for total anglers residing in each state, and for Great Lakes salmon/trout anglers in Wisconsin and Illinois. We believe those data to be of high enough quality that they can be used without reservation. Great Lakes (GL) salmon/trout anglers in Minnesota and Indiana are estimated based on models (but controlled to observed trout stamp sales), and likely underestimate the real number of GL salmon/trout anglers in these states. Estimates for Michigan GL salmon/trout anglers are likely less accurate, as there are no trout stamp sales data available in Michigan for a control. Finally, estimates of GL salmon/trout anglers by lake (especially for Lake Huron) should be taken as an approximation. Please review the documentation for explicit details on the construction and limits of these data.


The information presented on this website is the result of a research project supported by Grant Number 2015 WIN 44044 from the Great Lakes Fishery Commission under the Human Dimensions of Great Lakes Fishery Management theme. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission, Michigan Technological University, or any of the State Departments of Natural Resources with whom we worked. Rozalynn Klaas of the Applied Population Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin- Madison provided cartography for the maps included here.

The authors would like to thank staff at the Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin Departments of Natural Resources (DNR) who helped us by providing access to fishing license and other key data. This includes Vic Santucci at the Illinois DNR; Jeremy Price, Brian Breidert, and Matt Burlingame at the Indiana DNR; Tracy Claramunt, Randy Claramunt, Kristen Kosloski, Phil Schneeberger, Nick Popoff, Jay Wesley, Kristen Shuler, and Jim Francis at the Michigan DNR; James Thompson, Jenifer Wical, Heather Kieweg, Lyn Bergquist, Melissa Treml and Don Pereira at the Minnesota DNR; and Justine Hasz, Kate Strom-Hiorns, Karl Scheidegger, Keith Warnke, Ben Beardmore, and Brad Eggold at the Wisconsin DNR. In addition, we would like to thank staff, especially Marc Gaden, at the Great Lakes Fishery Commission for their support.

Contact Information

Please contact the primary authors with substantive comments or questions about data or analysis.

  • Richelle L. Winkler, Associate Professor of Sociology and Demography, Michigan Technological University, Social Sciences Department. 906-487-1886.
  • Erin M. Burkett, PhD Candidate, Environmental and Energy Policy Graduate Program, Michigan Technological University.
  • For technical difficulties accessing or downloading information, please contact