Wildlife officials: Fishing is perfect for social distancing
RUTLAND — The rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus has temporarily changed Vermonters' lives in many unexpected ways. Schools have closed, students are doing distance-learning, school sports and other activities have been canceled, and many parents are now working from home or are off work completely. As a result, many Vermonters have found themselves with time on their hands and a case of cabin fever.
It's extremely important to follow the Vermont Department of Health's guidelines on social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Experts say it is also important for our physical and mental well-being to take some time to get outdoors and appreciate the natural world. As more parts of Vermont see closures and recommendations for social distancing, time safely spent outdoors can help people to find ways to manage the stress and uncertainty.
According to Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Shawn Good, there's no better remedy than fishing. Good says fishing is the original social distancing tool, because it is often a solitary activity or something you do with just a few people - often your own immediate family members.
"The times we're facing right now have had a deep impact on our work, school and social lives," Good said. "But fishing has long been viewed as an effective stress-reliever. Any time spent outside reconnecting with nature has been proven to benefit our health in many ways."
Good says that as spring weather arrives, melting ice and warming waters around the state, fishing is a great way to get outside with your immediate family, provided everyone is feeling well and not exhibiting any symptoms of being sick.
"Social distancing doesn't mean you need to completely shut yourself in the house. With some simple precautions, you can take advantage of many fishing opportunities we have right now across the state."
Good's list of recommended fishing opportunities people can enjoy right now include:
Trout: There are 17 different rivers in the state that allow catch-and-release trout fishing all winter long — until regular trout season opens on April 11.
Bass: Bass can be targeted on most water throughout Vermont right now on a catch-and-release basis. Artificial lures are required, and you can't harvest them until mid-June, but after a long winter, hungry bass bite eagerly and fight hard.
Other fish species that are open to year-round angling include pike, pickerel, bullhead, catfish, and panfish species like perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed, and crappie.
"Now that spring is here, the opportunities are abundant and varied, and conditions will only improve in the coming weeks," said Good.
"It's really my favorite time of year to fish, and the main problem is just deciding what to go after. There are plenty of places you can cast a line from shore. Bullhead is a favorite springtime species of many anglers, and can be readily caught with a simple hook, worm and bobber around culverts and the mouths of streams where they flow into lakes. With the same setup, you can catch catfish, perch, crappie and sunfish while casting from the bank to areas near vegetation like bulrushes and cattails."
While the harvest of trout and bass is prohibited until their respective regular seasons begin, Good says that the other species he mentioned can be harvested now.
"There's nothing better than a fresh meal of perch, crappie, bullhead or catfish caught in our local waters. They make for an excellent, healthy, locally-sourced meal for your family! You can even make a biology home-school lesson out of your adventure."
Although spending time outdoors fishing is a healthful activity, Good says a few basic precautions will help keep everyone healthy:
- Do not carpool. Drive to your fishing spots only with your immediate family members and only if everyone is feeling well.
- When fishing from shore, keep a distance of at least six feet between you and your companions. A good way to measure this is with your fishing pole. Hold the pole straight out in front you. If you can turn in a circle without hitting anyone, that is a safe distance.
- Don't share fishing gear with others. Each angler should have their own fishing gear (rod and reels, bait, lures, towels, pliers, and other personal items).
- Do not touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Clean your gear well after using it.
- Wash your hands thoroughly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water after fishing.
For more information on current fishing opportunities and ideas on where to fish around Vermont, visit the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department's "Reconnecting With Nature" page at https://vtfishandwildlife.com/learn-more/reconnect-with-nature.
For more info on COVID-19 and health guidelines, visit https://www.healthvermont.gov/response/infectious-disease/2019-novel-coronavirus
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