Make no mistake. This is a gift. If we mess it up, it’s our own fault.
At issue is the continuation in Minnesota this spring of hunting and fishing, as well as certain other types of outdoor recreation cited by Gov. Tim Walz on Friday — this while the state, nation and world forge ahead during the coronavirus pandemic.
Governors of some other states have by comparison restricted hunting, fishing, boating and other outdoor recreation in ways that do more than inconvenience would-be participants. In some cases, people are kept out of the field altogether.
Michigan, for example, won’t allow boats with motors to be used during its shutdown but does allow canoes and kayaks. And Washington has postponed or canceled its spring hunting and fishing seasons.
The question now in advance of Minnesota’s May 9 fishing opener is whether anglers can adhere to common-sense state and federal distancing guidelines when they take to the water. And whether they can make still more adjustments to ensure not only their safety but that of people near them.
In a typical year, 500,000 or more Minnesotans fish on opening day, spread out from Winona in the south to Warroad in the north. Fewer people likely will cast, jig and troll on the season’s first weekend this year because of the pandemic. Still, hundreds of thousands of anglers on state lakes and rivers are a reasonable expectation.
Despite officials’ pleas in recent weeks for the maintaining of social distancing and other common sense protocols, some recreationists haven’t.
Strollers, dog walkers and runners, among others who frequent paths around some city lakes, are prime examples, often crowding into spaces too small to allow sufficient separation.
Examples also can be cited outside the metro. The North Shore was crowded on a recent blue-sky day in ways that, some say, brought to mind mid-July visitation peaks — with hikers, sightseers and others gathered closely in parking lots.
Because fishing necessarily requires continual re-evaluation of circumstances, knowledge-based decisionmaking and frequent strategy adjustment, anglers can, and must, do better. Not only to ensure Gov. Walz doesn’t rescind any outdoors privileges he has granted but to gain the trust of the general public.
A few considerations to keep in mind as the opener approaches, wherever in the state you plan to fish:
• Stay home if you’re sick, as health experts have repeatedly advised.
• Buy or make a mask and wear it when stopping for gas or otherwise interacting with the public. Yes, you look goofy. So do I. Wear it anyway. While you’re at it, buy a box of latex or similar disposable gloves. They’ll ensure while grabbing a gas-pump handle or otherwise touching things in public that you don’t encounter unwanted cooties (as it were). Also they’re good for cleaning fish.
• Plan ahead. Some businesses, perhaps including bait shops and resorts, that typically are open on the first weekend of fishing might not be this year. Bringing your own food and drink might be a good option. And develop a contingency plan should you or a fellow angler get sick.
• Assume public boat-landing docks won’t be in the water. This might not be the case. But some Department of Natural Resources and other crews either haven’t begun dock work this spring, or began it and stopped.
• Avoid crowded boat landings if possible and always maintain social distancing. Keeping your boat and/or boat and trailer a boat length from others is a good idea. Now is not the time to anchor next to Ol’ Jim Bob The Walleye King in hopes of filling your live well. Instead, fish away from others.
• When docking, launching or loading a boat, be patient. Don’t crowd onto docks or walkways. Keep a minimum of 6 feet from other people.
• Fish only with family members or others whose health histories you know and trust.
President Donald Trump takes a lot of heat from the media, some of it warranted. But he is correct when he says Americans can do more than one thing at a time.
Fishing while keeping themselves and those around them safe is one example, as Minnesota anglers will demonstrate beginning May 9.
Dennis Anderson firstname.lastname@example.org