Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and Fishing

Can you go fishing during the current Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic? Yes, with some exceptions depending on which state you fish in.

Most states are encouraging fishermen to spend time on the water, as long as they are being safe and following local regulations and guidelines. After all, what better way to practice ‘social distancing’ while maintaining your mental health than by getting outside and enjoying some fishing?

New Jersey DFW published this poster encouraging safe practices while fishing during the COVID-19 crisis.

Here are some basic guidelines for safe fishing during the COVID-19 Crisis:

  • Stay home if you are sick, or showing or feeling any COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, coughing,
    and/or troubled breathing
  • Practice social distancing by keeping at least six (6) feet of distance between yourself and others. A good way to measure this is with your fishing pole! Hold the pole straight out in front you. If you can turn in a circle without hitting anyone, that is a safe distance.
  • Avoid contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, or high-fives
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available
  • Avoid unnecessary contact with surfaces that are often touched, such as doorknobs and handrails.
  • Drive to your fishing spots only with your immediate family members and only if everyone is feeling well.
  • Don’t share fishing gear with others. Each angler should have their own fishing gear (rod and reels, bait, lures, towels, pliers, and other personal items).

We’ve gathered the latest information from state agencies in the Northeast. Rules and recommendations are changing daily, but we’ll do our best to keep the information below up to date.

Maine
As of April 2, 2020, fishing is open per current seasons/regulations.

New Hampshire

Under Governor Chris Sununu’s Emergency Order #17 on March 26, 2020, outdoor recreation is permitted in the Granite State as long as people take added precautions to practice social distancing. New Hampshire Fish and Game has not made any changes as of yet to seasons and all rules and regulations remain in effect and will be enforced by Conservation Officers. Fishing, clamming, the use of NH Fish and Game’s Wildlife Management Areas and boat ramps, and wildlife watching are all permitted. Trout stocking is just beginning and fishing is a good way to relax and reduce stress. “Fresh air and being in nature are important for our mental health and people are encouraged to recreate safely, responsibly, and close to home,” said Colonel Kevin Jordan, Chief of Law Enforcement at NH Fish and Game.

Vermont

As of March 24, 2020, Vermonters with time on their hands and a case of cabin fever are encouraged to follow guidelines on social distancing while fishing.  It is also important for our physical and mental well-being to take some time to get outdoors and appreciate the natural resources we have in Vermont. As more parts of Vermont see closures and recommendations for social distancing, time safely spent outdoors can help us find ways to manage the stress and uncertainty. According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Shawn Good, “The times we’re facing right now have had a deep impact on our work, school and social lives, but fishing has long been viewed as an effective stress-reliever. Any time spent outside reconnecting with nature has been proven to benefit our health in many ways.”

Good’s list of recommended fishing opportunities people can enjoy right now include Trout (there are 17 different rivers in the state that allow catch-and-release trout fishing all winter long — until regular trout season opens on April 11) and Bass (bass can be targeted on most water throughout Vermont right now on a catch-and-release basis. Artificial lures are required, and you can’t harvest them until mid-June) along with pike, pickerel, bullhead, catfish, and panfish species like perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and crappie.

Massachusetts

All fishing regulations, including licenses, are still in effect during the State of Emergency and Stay at Home Advisory. The revenue generated from license sales goes directly towards conservation, research, stocking, education, and restoration. Licenses can be obtained online by visiting the MassFishHunt online portal. Outdoor activities, and travel to and from those activities, are still permitted. All residents should practice social distancing by remaining 6 feet away from other people while participating in outdoor activities. Outdoor users should avoid gathering in groups larger than 10 people. MassWildlife is continuing to stock trout this spring. For the safety of MassWildlife staff, please do not approach staff while they are stocking fish. Don’t share a boat unless it is large enough so that all persons aboard can always remain at a minimum distance of six feet apart. Anglers and other paddlers in canoes and kayaks are reminded they are required to wear a life jacket through May 15.
All MassWildilfe Wildlife Management Areas remain open to the public to enjoy for fishing, hunting, walking, birding, and other nature-based activities. MassWildlife encourages the public to visit lesser-known spots and explore the outdoors close to home.

Rhode Island 

On March 26, 2020, The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) reminded Rhode Islanders that many diverse and varied outdoor spaces are open to the public and encouraging people to enjoy them safely by adhering to the Governor’s guidance on not gathering in groups and practicing social distancing. “There’s no better physical and emotional elixir than fresh air and sunshine, especially during these challenging times,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. However, the announcement has been updated with the notice that “all gatherings of more than 5 people are banned and individuals should be interacting with the same people every day to minimize the risk of spread.”

On March 31, 2020, DEM announced the temporary closure of Rhode Island state parks and beaches, along with their parking areas, beginning Friday, April 3, until further notice. DEM also announced that Opening Day of the trout-fishing season will not occur on its traditional date, which in a normal year would occur Saturday, April 11. DEM is still working out a plan to modify Opening Day. DEM manages over 64,000 acres of land, only 7,400 of which are state parks. “During the weeks ahead, I ask that people recreate close to home – in their backyards, on their stoop, and during a walk around the block. I encourage and recommend limiting your time outdoors to local outings and backyard adventures,” Coit said.

Connecticut

On March 24, 2020, Governor Ned Lamont issued an Executive Order opening lakes, ponds, rivers and streams to fishing statewide. Opening the fishing season early helps to limit community spread of COVID-19 by eliminating the large crowds that often accompany the traditional Opening Day of fishing in April. During this time of social distancing, fishing should be enjoyed as a solitary experience or with members of your immediate household, not as a group activity. DEEP is encouraging all anglers to follow social distancing practices. Anglers should maintain a distance of at least six feet from others, practice good personal hygiene, and stay home and away from others if you feel sick. If you arrive at a favorite fishing spot and see that crowds are forming, choose a different location, or return another day or time. Anglers are encouraged to purchase 2020 fishing licenses, Trout & Salmon Stamp, and Youth Fishing Passport online

DEEP’s Fisheries Division began its 2020 spring stocking of all traditional trout fishing areas in early February. There are also plenty of opportunities to fish for bass, pike, walleye, catfish and carp in areas that are usually closed at this time of year. All of DEEP’s 117 boat launches located throughout the state remain open, although docks will not be in place yet. DEEP reminds boaters that social distancing rules still apply and all boaters are encouraged to consider the size of the vessel, the number of people on board, and the ability of people to keep six or more feet apart. And as always when on the water, personal floatation devices should always be worn. Whether fishing from a kayak, canoe, rowboat, or outboard a PFD can save your life should you capsize.

New York

As of March 28, 2020, the NY DEC and State Parks are encouraging responsible recreation during the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, they launched a new hashtag – #RecreateLocal – and encouraged New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces and parks close to home. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said, “New York State is home to some of the most spectacular public lands and parks in the world. In uncertain times, these special places can serve as an oasis from stress, fear, and anxiety.”

On March 24, 2020, Seggos reminded New Yorkers that trout and salmon fishing season opens on Wednesday, April 1. New York’s coldwater lakes and streams offer springtime trout anglers the opportunity to pursue trout in a wide array of settings across the state. Commissioner Seggos said, “Fishing is good for the mind and body. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo continues to invest in ensuring New York’s renowned fisheries remain healthy and productive. While this winter’s mild conditions offered ample opportunities for hardcore or novice trout and salmon anglers to pursue their favorite gamefish on waters open to year-round fishing, springtime remains the main event. Water temperatures are rising, causing trout to feed more aggressively, and present a perfect opportunity for anglers. I encourage all anglers, novice and expert, to get outside and fish, but act responsibly by practicing social distancing and staying safe.”

New Jersey

On March 26, 2020, New Jersey DEP Commissioner Catherine R. McCabe reiterated that residents visiting state parks, forests and wildlife management areas are urged to follow specific practices to promote social distancing and prevent the further spread of COVID-19. State parks and forest trails are open, but all buildings, including bathrooms, are closed. Entrance fees are not being charged at state parks and forests. Trails are open for exercise such as walking, fishing, hiking and biking. Visitors are reminded to keep a minimum six-foot distance from others during their visits.

“Our parks and forests remain open for passive recreation,” Commissioner McCabe said. “New Jersey residents need access to spaces for outdoor recreation more than ever for the opportunity to take a break from time indoors and for physical exercise. We encourage these visits as long as the public is mindful of keeping their distance from others, and we thank our conservation partners for their efforts in promoting how to enjoy nature safely.”

Pennsylvania

The PFBC will operate under a consolidated statewide schedule for all counties during the 2020 trout season. Under this revised plan, a single Mentored Youth Trout Day will occur on April 11, and a Statewide Opening Day of trout season will take place on April 18. The earlier regional mentored youth and opening days will not occur in 2020 in 18 southeastern counties.

2020 trout stocking will be conducted on an accelerated schedule. To ensure public safety, volunteers will NOT be permitted to assist with stocking activities.

To reduce unnecessary travel and social contact amid health concerns, Commission Executive Director Tim Schaeffer signed an emergency order that allows anglers and boaters to display their fishing license, launch permit, or boat registration digitally on a phone or other mobile device as proof of possession. This change will allow customers who may be unable to, or feel uncomfortable visiting a store to purchase a fishing license, launch permit, or boat registration renewal to make the purchase online through The Outdoor Shop.

Delaware

Delaware’s state parks and wildlife areas have plenty of space for Delawareans to get outside and get some needed fresh air and exercise while maintaining that socially-acceptable distance of six feet or so. And there are no entrance fees until April 30. Out-of-state visitors must self-quarantine for 14 days before engaging in fishing. All Delaware beaches are closed until May 15 or until the public health threat of COVID-19 has been eliminated. Beaches within Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks are closed, except for limited vehicle access to beaches for the purpose of surf fishing for those with a current surf fishing permit. Only fishing from vehicles is allowed. Only two persons from the same household may accompany the vehicle and both persons must be actively fishing at all times. Users must maintain a distance of 20 yards between vehicles on the beach. Parking and fishing at the Indian River Inlet within Delaware Seashore State Park is permitted.

Maryland

Governor Larry Hogan has issued an executive order on March 30, 2020, which institutes a Stay at Home directive and says that no Maryland resident should be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or reason, such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention, or for other necessary purposes. While the order does allow for outdoor exercise recreation, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is reaffirming the need for members of the public who engage in outdoor recreation to follow all rules and guidelines in place to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Hogan has stressed that safely practiced outdoor recreation time is essential to health and well-being. Most Maryland state parks and other public lands remain open, and residents may engage in safe, isolated activities. Recreational boating is not allowed. Limited recreational fishing and crabbing for sustenance can continue, however social distancing must be adhered to strictly.

For information on fishing and the coronavirus crisis in other states, visit the COVID-19 and Fishing page setup by Keep America Fishing.

Content extracted from https://www.onthewater.com/covid-19-coronavirus-and-fishing