Recreational angling in the United States (US) is largely a personal hobby that scales up to a multibillion-dollar economic activity. Given dramatic changes to personal decisions and behaviors resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, we surveyed recreational anglers across the US to understand how the pandemic may have affected their fishing motivations and subsequent activities. Nearly a quarter million anglers from 10 US states were invited to participate in the survey, and almost 18,000 responded. Anglers reported numerous effects of the pandemic, including fishing access restrictions. Despite these barriers, we found that the amount of fishing in the spring of 2020 was significantly greater-by about 0.2 trips per angler-than in non-pandemic springs. Increased fishing is likely associated with our result that most respondents considered recreational angling to be a COVID-19 safe activity. Nearly a third of anglers reported changing their motivation for fishing during the pandemic, with stress relief being more popular during the pandemic than before. Driven partly by the perceived safety of social fishtancing, recreational angling remained a popular activity for many US anglers during spring 2020.