Anglers from more than a half-dozen states have been pouring into boat ramps along northwest Ohio’s portion of Lake Erie in recent weeks. They’ve been taking advantage of the abundance of walleye that pack the western end of the lake during spring spawning.
“No more,” said Gov. Mike DeWine in announcing that Ohio was immediately and indefinitely suspending the sale of non-resident fishing licenses. There’s general acknowledgement that out-of-state anglers have likely ignored DeWine’s earlier order that all visitors to Ohio self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
“People entering the state have been asked to self-quarantine for 14 days, but that really makes recreational travel unfeasible,” said Mary Mertz, director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and an avid sailor. “We look forward to reopening license sales again when anglers can safely return.”
The action was also precipitated by rising complaints from Ohioans about the numbers of out-of-staters arriving daily and their potential to exacerbate the virus problem for residents. Calls were increasing to shut down all ramps in the state.
Mertz spent last weekend visiting Lake Erie boat ramps, and while she found that boaters were conducting themselves in an orderly manner, the lots were full, and some anglers were turned away. And the majority of those were Ohio boaters.
With the good fishing, it was no surprise she’d find parking lots filled. She found 23 out-of-state vehicles parked at the Catawba State Park ramp. At other area ramps, she observed that about 25 percent of the boat trailers had license plates from New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, South Dakota, Iowa and Michigan.
So far this year, Ohio has sold 7,292 non-resident fishing licenses, including 1,592 one-day licenses and 593 three-day licenses.
While ending the out-of-state traffic was seen as a solid move, DeWine weeks ago listened to the Boating Associations of Ohio’s case for categorizing most aspects of the state’s marine industry as essential. Closing all ramps would unnecessarily penalize marine businesses and, particularly, many of Ohio’s half-million boating families, who see waterways as a safe escape. While dealers agreed to keep showrooms closed (except for appointments), overall operations are running, with adherence to health department recommendations, including distancing and sanitizing.
The BAO initiative is a successful model for other states and marine trade associations to follow.
Smile During Crazy Times
I live in Florida — the Sunshine State, except during hurricane season, when it’s the Plywood State. The stay-in-place order here has people calling the police, shaming their neighbors on social media and doing some crazy things. (They’d all be better off buying a boat; it’s the safest escape machine.)
Here are a few interesting examples, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times:
- Someone called the sheriff to report seeing a friend “checked in” on Facebook at a nightclub.
- Another called police to say they should check out three cars they didn’t recognize in a neighbor’s driveway.
- Still another told the sheriff his neighbor was walking around outside and not following quarantine while his roommate was posting nude photos taken at closed park (not sure whose roommate we’re talking about here).
- Someone took covert snapshots of their neighbors’ visitors and sent them to the police.
- A St. Petersburg man posted a night-vision security video on YouTube of what appeared to be three teenage girls cutting through his backyard, noting they weren’t social distancing.
- And talk about wild: In a Facebook group for residents of a small community, some memberswere comparing people squealing on their neighbors for poor social-distancing practices to those who turned in their neighbors to the Gestapo during World War II.
On April 1, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Floridians to stay home for the month. Thankfully,fishing is listed as an essential activity. And our local supermarket designated the first two hours of each day open only to Florida’s residents who are 60 and older. That leaves the remaining 10 residents to have the run of the store for the rest of the day!