Fishing During a Pandemic

We are in uncharted waters. Recently, Covid-19 has swept the nation and brought the world to its knees. The entire country is on lock down and all non-essential businesses are closed. With no clear end in sight, there have been very few silver linings lately except for fishing.

Fishing has given many of us, myself included an opportunity to escape, now more than ever. I’ve been out a few times myself, but didn’t get an opportunity to blog about it until now. This post will be sort of a catch-up for the last few weeks. In order to ensure social distancing, I will refrain from posting locations until the lock down has been lifted.

The start of this trout season has been unusual to say the least. I’ve had more time to fish than ever since campus is shut down, and all my teaching and writing responsibilities are occurring remotely. At first this seemed like a blessing, until I realized many people are in the same boat.

Stocked trout streams have been mobbed, especially on nicer days. Every spot that has fish always seems to have an angler or two.  Most of the people I’ve met have been pretty respectful. Many are just glad to be outside and most will maintain good social distance. However, there have been exceptions to this.

At a local river, I was nymphing the tail out of a run when a spin fisherman cut me off and started casting five feet above me. I was flustered, but he seemed oblivious to what he did so I just shrugged and continued fishing. He was throwing a heavy lure through a very rocky section.

A few casts in, he snagged a rock at the head of the run. He then waded through the run to retrieve his lure before leaving. It was a brief moment of consolation for me when I stepped into his spot later and caught a pile of fish while he left altogether not long after.

At another spot, a week later, a bait angler approached me as I was fishing a small pool. Every time I glanced downstream, he moved closer. Eventually, he stopped at the tail out and caught a fish a few minutes later. He called up to me, but I ignored thinking he was just talking to himself. A few minutes later, this happened again and he loudly announce what he caught. And, again. I don’t know if this guy wanted validation or was just happy, but it felt a little obnoxious to me. I just left.

Despite the crowds, however, I’ve still found willing fish. In some cases, I’ve had to walk up and downstream of popular spots to find solitude and willing fish (although, sometimes recently stocked fish can be reluctant to spread out right away). Other times, I’ve fished during non-peak times and have either gone out early or stayed out past dark.

Bad-weather days have also been a plus, as crowds are often small. Although fish haven’t been all that selective, junk flies have worked very well for me given all the rain.

How’s everyone else been doing lately?

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18 thoughts on “Fishing During a Pandemic

  1. Frankly I think that fly fishing just due to casting motions lends itself to social distancing as compared to tossing lures or bait. I know I have always practiced social distancing while fishing (at least two good casts worth)!
    The Hendrickson Hatch is a big draw on rivers, especially now that a lot of folks are not working. Surprisingly I haven’t noticed as many out of state anglers where I fish on a popular river, but have overheard locals bitching about access to THEIR RIVER due to crowds at famous pools which I avoid like the plague.
    From what I have read, and discussed with MD, solitary outdoor activities such as fishing, do not spread the virus. Southern New England being a relatively small area lends itself to multi-state fishing day trips so unless each political border is policed as was done in RI, we can expect to see non-residents at many popular fishing rivers.
    Anyway, identifying specific locations is a good idea for the time being.

    1. If states crack down on out-of-state anglers, which they’re allowed to do given the severity of the virus, I’d expect people to ask for refunds for their out-of-state licenses, which are always priced higher than what in-state people pay.

      1. Don’t think that will happen. I think the biggest issue is the popularity of certain rivers, plus seasonal glamour Hatches, and a lot of people with time on their hands causes too many people trying to access the same spots at the same time.Very frustrating if you aren’t flexible. I have been berated for years by residents for fishing their river/lake. Same argument now but hiding behind the Covid virus. If fishing, solitary hiking, and other similar outdoor activities were dangerous, no one would be allowed to participate. I feel very safe participating as a solo angler. Anyway my final $.02 on that subject.

      2. I agree. If states start cracking down on out-of-state anglers, either refund their license fees or block the sale of additional licenses until this whole issue is resolved. I don’t think there is any reasonable way to block out-of-state license holding anglers, save for closing popular spots for the time being which is a whole can of worms in itself. My perspective is that if you travel 2-3 hours away to fish, it is your responsibility to maintain social distancing measures for your sake and the sake of others around you

  2. I’ve hit less popular rivers and found spin and fly anglers respecting more than enough distance and most give a positive cheer regardless of who caught what. I’ve heard a few sighs when I catch and release 🙂

    1. Hi Rui, I want to clarify that it was just a couple of anglers that I had bad experiences with. I understand and respect everyone’s right to fish regardless of whether they spin or fly fish. I get a few sighs as well when I catch and release fish, but it’s usually from friends and family versus other anglers.

  3. Thats a nice brookie on the left there Ashu. I love the species and I’ve been trying to find more info on New England brook trout. We all know that Maine has the reputation for a legacy population of large brook trout, I wonder why this is only the case for Maine. Are there similar populations of large native trout in NH or VT? You’d think the northern reaches of these states would also support large fish, places where industrialization hasn’t had the chance to stamp out old world fisheries.

    1. Thanks Andrew! I’ve wondered the same thing for a while actually. I think there are some legacy populations of big brook trout in NH and VT, but they are incredibly limited compared to Maine. A big reason that Maine has all the big fish is due to the lakes. NH doesn’t have quite as many lakes capable of supporting big wild brook trout that Maine does, unfortunately. The lakes that we do have are stocked with bows and browns, which naturally outcompete the brook trout. A few of our lakes have larger streams suitable for spawning runs of large fish, but most don’t. And as you pointed out, industrialization has altered some of those streams and shorelines irreparably. The few legacy fish that you’ll find in this state and Vermont live in small mountain and northern ponds that aren’t stocked by the state.

      1. Thanks for your perspective Ashu, that’s a good point on the lakes. I guess I also easily forget just how big Maine is, some back of the napkin math tells me you can almost fit 4 New Hampshires in that state, with a very similar population size. Anyway, good chat – go cats!

  4. Well I’ve chosen this pandemic time to start fly fishing. I’ve been keeping myself mostly sane these past several weeks by trying to get outdoors more and more – biking, running, hiking, spin-fishing. This is just an extension of that push. I’ve got a starter kit and have been watching some videos, but boy do I wish the fly shops were open. I’m going to try to muddle through and hope I can find some decent places to learn and catch fish in my relatively urban environs. It’s going to be an adventure; wish me luck!

    1. Enjoy, Ed! It offers a lifelong journey involving knowledge acquisition and natural beauty. It is worth all the effort required, IMO.

      1. Thanks! Used the Mass trout stocking map as well as the DFW cold water fisheries map to find a place relatively close to home to scout out today. Eyeballed a couple sections but saw nothing going on. I apologize if I’m breaking etiquette here – people seem to be very guarded about locations – but how do I go about asking fishermen if a place is accessible/fishable?

        1. Gosh, it is mostly done word of mouth. There are same Facebook groups at which people post questions about rivers and often get responses.

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