COVID Consequences - The Fisherman

COVID Consequences

I’ve heard a lot of theories and ideas thrown around as far as the effect that COVID-19 has and will have on recreational fishing, both positive and negative. Fishing activity seems to be up, but there isn’t too much hard data that I’ve seen so far to support this so it might just feel that way. Sure fishing license purchasing was up in the months of March through May when we were all in lockdown, but I’d have to guess that year-to-year this is the timeframe when most anglers purchase their license with different fishing seasons opening throughout the late-spring months; I know for me I generally buy my all-waters license for Connecticut anywhere from January 1 to March 1 annually.

One item that I am not sure on is how COVID-19 will effect catch data figures of recreational anglers. While almost by the nature of the beast MRIP figures are flawed at best, the idea is being thrown around that 2020 data will be even more unreliable because, “a lot of angling is being done by non-licensed individuals who will therefore not be sampled by NOAA,” and with social-distancing requirements in place it is difficult if not prohibited altogether for angler intercepts to take place in the field. Some have told me that this will result in disproportionately-low catch estimates that will then be used as fuel in coming years to ease restrictions and increase bag limits on a variety of key species. I’d like to think that the powers that be would take COVID-19 into account when they review the data, but I guess only time will tell.

There are some things that are undeniably affected by COVID-19. As you’ll see in this week’s News Briefs section, ICAST 2020 has gone to a digital-only format. In place of Orlando being the center of the fishing universe for the second week of July this year, we will instead be working off a digital platform where ICAST “attendees” such as myself will navigate through a virtual world of meetings, product demonstrations, lectures and more. While on the one hand heading to hot and humid Florida for a week every summer is not high on my wish list, ICAST has always been a great event where we get to see the latest and greatest hitting the fishing world first hand. Stay tuned to TheFisherman.com and our social media platforms as we’ll post updates in a virtual sense as to what we encounter while navigating this new platform.

Going back a few months, tackle shops were justifiably concerned for their future well-being. With stay-at-home orders and forced work closures coming at a time when business is usually up would most certainly hit them hard in the wallet. Fortunately for us here in Southern New England, for the most part a really heavy hit wasn’t felt what with curbside pick-up and online orders picking up the slack. From there as shops were given the okay to open to the public, fishermen jumped at the opportunity to restock on the early-season gear they’d been using and losing, and they were eager to stock up for seasons ahead. A somewhat unforeseen problem has now reared its ugly head, however, and that is in restocking shelves. With a rather high percentage of modern fishing tackle being made oversees, there has been a hole in the supply chain. I am not going to get heavy and talk about economics and world trade, but it sure has opened up my eyes to our reliance on cheap goods when it comes to fishing tackle.

So with ongoing uncertainties behind COVID-19 and all that is related to it, in the very least let’s make the best of the hand we’ve been dealt and get out there and fish. Just remember to stay safe, stay healthy, and keep on social-distancing if you see me in the surf!

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