It is estimated that over five million Australians take part in recreational fishing in Australia as a leisure activity. Some 120,000 people were identified as members of fishing clubs in 1996-97. Recreational fishing also supports about 90,000 Australian jobs. Two main industries are involved, the Australian fishing tackle and bait industry (with an annual turnover in excess of $170m), and the recreational boating industry, (with an annual turnover of around $500m of which 60% is related to fishing in one way or another). It is estimated that international tourists spend over $200m on fishing in Australia each year. Current statistics on the quantity of seafood caught by recreational fishers are difficult to find. However a survey undertaken by the ABS in the early 1990s showed that recreational fishing accounted for around 23,000 tonnes of fish, 2,800 tonnes of crabs and approximately 1,400 tonnes of freshwater crayfish.
Recreational fishing is particularly important from a regional perspective, with significant flow-on benefits, such as providing employment opportunities in the tackle, boating, tourism, fishing charter and associated industries in many coastal and rural areas. Most of Australia's recreational fishing is undertaken along the coast and estuaries of New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria, reflecting both the excellent fishing areas and the geographic spread of Australia's population. However, freshwater recreational fishing in inland areas of Australia plays an important role in regional economies, particularly those areas where rivers have been dammed to supply hydro-electricity or water for irrigation purposes. Australia also has some of the best trout streams in the world, thanks to the introduction of these species in most suitable streams during the 19th century.
Saltwater species are the main focus of recreational fishers, with tailor, bream, whiting and flathead being some of the more common and widespread species of saltwater fish caught. In addition to the introduced freshwater fish, Australia has a range of excellent tasting native inland fish such as barramundi, silver perch and golden perch.
Many fish are subject to daily bag limits, which restrict the number of fish legally able to be caught and retained in one day. In addition, some fishing areas are subject to seasonal closures, which are imposed by state fishing authorities to protect certain fish species during their breeding period. Many state fishing authorities have introduced a requirement for all fishers to purchase fishing licences for both freshwater and saltwater fishing. Income received through the licensing system will be used by state governments to undertake important research aimed at ensuring a healthy and sustainable fish population in Australia's recreational fishing areas.