The combination of being outdoors and in the fresh air provides a healthy elixir for any ailment, including boredom and news fatigue.
However, participating in some solitary angling can serve up additional benefits.
I have found through extensive personal “research” that spending the early morning hours alone on the banks of my favorite creek or lake, beats the heck out of any amount of time spent on the therapist’s couch!
Along with all of its guidelines, restrictions, mandates, and warnings, the coronavirus pandemic has also introduced us to some less-than-familiar terminology, such as “social distancing.”
It is transmitted from close contact between humans or an infected human touching a surface and someone else coming by and touching that surface.
Luckily fishing is a sport that makes social distancing easy
The CDC further defines that recommended neutral zone as at least six feet between you and anyone else, to lessen the chances of exposure to the COVID-19 (also referred to as Coronavirus) pathogen, which was first reported in Wuhan, China, in late December.
The COVID-19 situation is serious, uncertain and stressful for all of us, but a little “you” time under the open sky can work wonders.
To support solo fishing as a great social distancing activity, some state’s Fish & Wildlife Departments, like that of Maine, have even opened all inland waters early and waived the requirement of a recreational fishing license to fish in these waters.
However, it’s important to assume that you need a license until you have confirmed otherwise for the area you’re going to fish.
Also, choose your fishing destination carefully.
Just because it’s “outdoors” doesn’t mean it’s not going to be crowded, especially as more and more of our fellow enthusiasts are experiencing cabin fever from working restrictions.
Check for Coronavirus-related Closures
The wide-open spaces of public land can help you avoid close contact with other people.
However, you’ll once again want to confirm which properties remain open to the public.
As distancing requirements are still under the control of state governments, closures and restrictions vary from place to place.
Some locations are completely closed, while many others are open only for day-use visitors.
Gear & Bait Shop Closures
However, the window for anglers to stock up on fishing equipment and bait by simply walking into a local sporting goods store or bait shop is closing fast in many cases.
And many fishing guides are canceling or considering canceling trips in upcoming weeks.
Unless they also stock gasoline, kerosene, or other items deemed essential, most Sporting goods stores, as well as bait shops, are considered a nonessential business and are likely to be closed for the next month or so.
Anglers needing to choose a specific type of fishing rod are turning to online providers, but buying live bait may become increasingly difficult, as it’s harder to find online.
Small “mini-market” gas stations may carry a small inventory of fishing tackle, and some even sell live bait, though the selection is likely to be limited, so it’s best to call ahead.
Chain stores that carry groceries and other items identified as essential, often carry bait and tackle as well.
In these locations fishing gear should remain available, though live-bait options are going to get iffy. (Unlike you and I, local governments probably don’t consider red-wigglers and sand-shrimp to be “essential” during the current Coronavirus epidemic.)
General Safety Tips (As defined by the C.D.C.)
· First and foremost, stay home if you’re sick (even if it’s not the Coronavirus).
· Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others
· Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
· Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
· Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.
· Avoid docks, piers, and shorelines that are already occupied and/or don’t provide the minimum safe distance between anglers.
· If solo angling, use heightened precautions, especially when fishing in more remote areas. Always tell someone where and when you are fishing, when you plan to be back, and that you’ll contact them when you’re safely home. Park in the open to identify your presence and wear a life jacket if you’re going to fish from a boat or flotation device.
Sharing is Not Caring (right now at least).
In addition to the CDC’s general guidelines, there are a few “outdoor-activity-specific” safety recommendations that can be helpful as well.
Now, I’m the kind of guy who, if someone asks me “What you catch that one on”, more often than not I’m going to look in my tackle-box and hand them one.
It’s like shaking hands, or saying please and thank you, it’s just the way I was raised.
Unfortunately, in times of a virus outbreak, we need to tweak our manners to help keep ourselves and others safe.
Clean surfaces or wear gloves (even better – do both!) when touching public areas that are frequently touched by others – things like:
· Gate handles
· Public bathroom sink handles
· Fishing dock rails
· Park benches
· Picnic tables
· Fishing cleaning stations
· Pay stations
· Also, when stocking up, keep in mind things like store door handles, food or bait refrigerator handles and check-out counter tops.
Also, keep in mind that the virus can travel on most hard surfaces, so be mindful of sharing fishing poles, net, tackle-boxes, or bait containers.
Carry your own gear in, carry your own gear out, and ask others (especially strangers) not to touch it.
You don’t need to be a jerk, just politely explain your reasons and most people are going to understand, and even share, your caution.
Connect with your local health departments and your Fish & Wildlife Department (see links below).
Take the Road (or trail) Less Traveled
The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) oversees more than 130,000 miles of fishing rivers and streams, as well as countless recreational fishing access points across the United States.
From ocean shores to desert reservoirs to high mountain lakes and streams, the BLM is a critical part of sustaining the Nation’s fisheries.
These lands are generally open to everyone, though specific locations can be temporarily closed due to maintenance or safety issues.
Fish & Wildlife Lands
Although camping is not currently allowed on most BLM and State Fish & Wildlife properties, many areas and water access points are still open to the public at this time.
Note: Due to current shortages, as well as theft, don’t count on finding toilet paper or hand sanitizer in pit toilets and other bathroom facilities. Instead, be sure to pack your own.
Your best chance of finding some secluded angling is the same as it’s always been. Get off the beaten path and be willing to hike a little farther than the rest of the crowd.
Rule of thumb: The more effort it takes to get there, the safer it’s likely to be.
During these stressful times, enjoying the outdoors is a great way to unwind and recharge, while still respecting safe social distancing practices (and, for all our sakes, please continue to follow your local Department of Health’s Coronavirus guidelines!)
Because let’s face it, there’s nothing better for the heart and soul than a little fishing.