Fish, wildlife recreation worth billions to Ohio’s economy

Nov 28, 2023 | Ottawa Outdoors | 0 comments

A new report shows that wildlife-based recreation, especially around Lake Erie and Ohio’s North Coast, contributed nearly $12.5 billion to Ohio’s economy in 2022.

A recently released report from the Wildlife Management Institute, Responsive Management, and Southwick Associates showed that wildlife-based recreation contributed nearly $12.5 billion to Ohio’s economy in 2022, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. To no one’s surprise who lives and works in the Lake Erie and along the North Coast, this region of the Buckeye State led the way.

“Ohio has rolling hills for hunting, vast waterways for fishing, and thriving habitats for birding,” said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine. “The diverse natural wonders of Ohio prove once again the state really is ‘The Heart of it All.’”

The study spotlighted Lake Erie and Ohio’s North Coast as a driving force for reaping the financial benefits of its premier fishing, birding, hunting and boating, including paddling on a wealth of Water Trails.

The study was conducted for the Division of Wildlife and surveyed Ohio residents to gauge their participation in outdoor recreation and the economic impact of those activities. The survey primarily focused on Ohioans’ involvement in hunting, fishing, target shooting, and wildlife viewing.

Ohio residents ages 18 and older, including licensed hunters and anglers, completed telephone and email surveys.

Collectively, the four study activities provided nearly 80,000 jobs in Ohio and $4 billion in income, plus $1.1 billion in local and state taxes, as well as more than $600 million in federal taxes.

The activities contributed a total of $6.7 billion to Ohio’s GDP in 2022. Of the $12.5 billion of economic activity created through these activities, residents contributed $12 billion.

“We’ve always appreciated the great outdoors of Ohio and the natural spaces it has to offer,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “Beyond the environmental benefits, this report shows the economic value of Ohio’s topography and wildlife.”


According to the survey, about 18% of Ohio’s adults fished in 2022, a legion of 1.7 million anglers. Ohio’s anglers combined to spend $5.5 billion last year and supported more than 34,000 jobs. Not surprisingly, the most popular counties for anglers were those along Lake Erie and the Ohio River, and 37% of anglers took at least one trip to Lake Erie to fish.


Hunters generated $1.9 billion in spending last year and supported 12,000 jobs. Each of the state’s 500,000 hunters spent an average of $3,500. Approximately 5% of Ohioans older than 18 hunt. White-tailed deer were the most popular game species, with 91% of hunters taking part. Firearms were used by 83% of hunters, a bow by 72%, and many used both.

Target shooting

Meanwhile, 1.1 million target shooters spent $2.6 billion in 2022, supporting more than 22,000 jobs. Around 20% of Ohioans participate in target shooting each year. Outdoor shooting ranges were used by 71% of target shooters, and indoor ranges by 46%.

Interestingly, 40% of target shooters visited the range for reasons other than preparing to hunt. Hamilton, Franklin, and Cuyahoga counties – Ohio’s most populous counties – were among the most popular for target shooters, as were Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

The World Series of the shooting sports, The National Rifle and Pistol Matches, are a month-long international shooting exposition at Camp Perry in Port Clinton, attracting thousands of rifle and pistol fans.

Wildlife viewing

Wildlife viewers poured $1.6 billion into Ohio’s economy last year and supported 11,500 jobs. The most celebrated birding exposition in the country is the Biggest Week in American Birding hosted in early May each year by the Black Swamp Bird Observatory in Oak Harbor.

Most (91%) of the 4.1 million viewers looked for birds. Mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians were also sought out. Wildlife viewers, a group that included photographers, were likely to stay near home, with a third of participants traveling fewer than 10 miles to enjoy their hobby.

A third of wildlife viewers also relied exclusively on public land, which is plentiful in Northwest Ohio, emphasizing the importance of making these recreation areas accessible.

View the complete outdoor recreation participation and economic impact study at

“Ohio’s fish and wildlife resources are a tremendous asset to Ohio’s economy,” Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker said. “We have always appreciated the significant financial contributions of Ohio’s anglers, hunters, target shooters, and birders. It is reassuring to see these benefits confirmed through the recent survey.”

The Division of Wildlife manages or cooperatively manages more than 2 million acres of water and 750,000 acres of diverse wildlife areas. These habitats support popular game species such as deer, turkey, and walleye as well as key species such as bald eagles and monarch butterflies.

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