The coronavirus has ensured that the 2020 fishing season will be unlike any we have ever experienced. Who could have possibly imagined that a face mask or covering would be part of your fishing attire, or that you would not be able to start the season aboard your favorite party or charter boat? And who thought that you would be unable to share fishing trips with those you have fished side by side with for too many years to count? Just a few short months ago the biggest concerns were what this season’s striped bass and bluefish regulations were going to be. Those concerns seem so petty now, given the state of the world today.
The good news is that we still have fishing to escape the stress that comes with the impact COVID-19 is having on our everyday lives. It may not be exactly what we had in mind before the onset of the virus, but at least we now have access to many beaches, marinas, fishing piers and boat ramps in our region. And while you may not be able to fish with your best friend, you do get to spend some quality time with your immediate family.
The expansion of access was largely due to Governor Cuomo’s declaration last week that opened most of our marinas and launch ramps. Access to state parks and beaches was already in place and had never been closed to the public, but local municipalities had seen fit to close their public marinas and launch ramps, something that never made much sense in the first place. After all, what better way to practice social distancing than to be on the water with your immediate family? Many folks, including lots of stressed out first responders and hospital workers, saw their boats and fishing as a way to relieve the stress brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, both the State Parks Department and DEC have been encouraging outdoor recreation as a means of coping with the stress associated with the disease, while emphasizing the mental health benefits and how activities like fishing can help boost our immune system.
Now before I paint too rosy a picture, everyone should know that this precious access we have now could be very much in jeopardy, especially with the onset of warmer weather, and expanding fishing opportunities such as the opening of fluke season and the arrival of other species like bluefish, weakfish, blowfish and porgies. And it won’t be up to just us anglers. Lots of people will be flocking to the outdoors as mild spring weather settles in. We have already been warned that overcrowding and the ignoring of CDC guidelines, including self-distancing and the wearing of face masks or other covering, will result in area closures, including beaches, marinas and boat ramps.
If you are planning to fish, whether in your boat or from shore, it is critically important that we all continue to strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines. Make sure you have a mask or face covering on you if there is the potential of being around other people. Neck gaiters like those used for sun protection are a great option for anyone on or near the water who has difficulty finding a mask or finds them too uncomfortable. Be patient at ramps and keep your distance from others who are launching their boats. As difficult as it might be, do not fish with anyone who is not confined to your home with you. That is especially true where boats are concerned. We must remain vigilant – we don’t want to go backwards. If that happens, it will be even more painful given the height of the fishing season and good weather. Please continue to be smart and stay safe.