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COVID-19 UPDATE: PLAY BY THE RULES

Go fish, BUT do it safely and that means strictly adhering to CDC guidelines of social distancing (they say 6 feet – I say 10 feet).

By Fred Golofaro  |  March 30, 2020
COVID-19 UPDATE: PLAY BY THE RULES
Catching a gorgeous sunset while practicing social distancing. No fish needed here.

Getting out too fish during the COVID-19 pandemic has provided a welcome escape for many anglers during these stressful times. We are fortunate in New York that we have a governor, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and State Parks Department that have been supportive of recreational fishing and understand the mental and health benefits that outdoor recreation, including fishing, can provide. Anglers in some other states are not so lucky. I have been receiving a steady flow of press releases and bulletins from DEC and State Parks reminding us of these benefits, and also the importance of practicing social distancing while engaged in outdoor activities. The latest, below, was received on Monday, March 30.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks) today encouraged New Yorkers to engage in responsible recreation during the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis. DEC and State Parks recommendations incorporate guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health for reducing the spread of infectious diseases and encourage New Yorkers to recreate locally, practice physical distancing, and use common sense to protect themselves and others. In addition, DEC and State Parks launched a new hashtag - #RecreateLocal - and encouraged New Yorkers to get outside and discover open spaces and parks close to home.

Getting outdoors to walk, jog, hike, ride a bicycle, fish, or visit a park or state lands is a healthy way to stay active, spend time with immediate household family members, and reduce stress and anxiety when practicing social distancing. While indoor spaces and restrooms at State Parks and DEC’s public facilities may be closed out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of COVID-19, many parks, grounds, forests, and trails are open during daylight hours, seven days a week.

Adding to fishing opportunities are a policy of waiving all state park entrance fees during the crisis, and maintaining the spring trout stocking schedule. While trout have provided a good opportunity to bend a rod, catching fish has actually taken a backseat to just being able to immerse yourself in nature’s surroundings, whether it be a lake, bay, Long Island Sound or an ocean beach. One health care worker I met said that being out on the beach was the therapy he needed after working long hours under stressful conditions at the hospital. Another bulletin from DEC a week or so ago said it best: During the current COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outdoors and connecting with nature is a way to help maintain our mental and physical health. Scientific studies show that time outside in nature significantly reduces stress and anxiety, lowers blood pressure, improves mood, energy, and sleep, and boosts the immune system.

So, while we here at The Fisherman are fully onboard with people getting outdoors and fishing, there is a major caveat involved. We have been saying all along – go fish BUT do it safely and that means strictly adhering to CDC guidelines of social distancing (they say 6 feet – I say 10 feet). There can be no rationalizing and no compromising. That means if you get to the area you were planning on fishing and it is too crowded, you must be willing to go somewhere else, or even back home. There can be no excuses if you are to do your part to help beat this pandemic. You owe it to your family, friends and anyone you might come in contact with to do it right. Fish alone or only with those who are confined with you in your home. The same guidelines apply if you are fishing in your own boat. Do not make unnecessary stops for food or coffee on your way to fishing or on your way back home. I’m seeing too many people out in public who seem to be oblivious to the seriousness of this disease, or are just too selfish to be concerned about those around them.

Here’s something else to keep in mind. The state of Washington had been fisherman friendly until this weekend when some fishing areas revealed anglers lined shoulder to shoulder, and overcrowded boat ramps. On Monday the state responded by placing a ban on all recreational fishing. With flounder and blackfish seasons opening this week, and the number of areas producing stripers increasing daily, more and more anglers will be seeking to escape to the outdoors. If you don’t do the right thing, we could suffer the same fate of Washington anglers at just the time when other species like weakfish, fluke and bluefish will be on our doorstep. Staying home is a lot easier said than done, so let’s all be be smart, safe and considerate of others so that we can continue to enjoy this one little freedom that can provide so much relief during these challenging times.