Washington State closes to recreational fishing

American Sportfishing Association is tracking restrictions imposed by several states due to the threat of COVID-19.
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Early-spring recreational fishing for many species is a huge economic contributor to many regions, drawing crowds of anglers targeting fish like walleye, crappie and sturgeon.

Early-spring recreational fishing for many species is a huge economic contributor to many regions, drawing crowds of anglers targeting fish like walleye, crappie and sturgeon.

The state of Washington is closed to recreational fishing and shellfishing through April 8, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and several other states are restricting access in their efforts to curb the spread of coronavirus.

To support the action by Washington, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife announced it would be closing recreational salmon and steelhead fishing along the Columbia River, as well as the fisheries, which are managed by both states, according to KEPR TV, a Vancouver, Wash., NBC affiliate.

Earlier this week the department posted on Facebook that fishing would remain open in Oregon, but that people should maintain “sturgeon distancing.”

The “Walleye Capital,” a region in northern Minnesota, closed several ramps on the Rainy River to discourage the rush of visitor traffic that comes with early-spring walleye and sturgeon fishing, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, told the newspaper the boat ramp closings were an unwelcome surprise for fishing guides and other area businesses that thrive on fishing traffic.

“It’s really a sad, sad deal,’’ Henry said. “But people are trying to do things for the right reasons.”

People with private access to the river will be able to fish, he said, but closing the public ramps to vehicle traffic will undoubtedly stymie the majority of would-be anglers.

The American Sportfishing Association and its Keep America Fishing campaign have been tracking the various approaches by different states with an interactive map that links anglers to the state’s oversight body COVID-19 update page.

ASA has been touting the obvious benefits of fishing during a lockdown meant to stymie the rapid spread of COVID-19, while cautioning anglers to be careful and maintain proper distancing.

“Recognizing the significant threat that COVID-19 poses to the American public, Keep America Fishing supports federal and state land management and fisheries agencies modifying their policies to ensure the safety of their employees and the public,” the association said on its website.

It also asks states to encourage the public to pursue “reasonable and responsible fishing activities,” keep access open as much as possible, and ensure online licensing is available. 

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