Washington Temporarily Closes Recreational Fishing and Other Spring Hunts Because of Coronavirus
OutdoorHub Editor: Keenan Crow 04.02.20
Fellow sportsmen, similar restrictions like this have already started being enacted in other states, and could start happening more often if we aren’t careful. We must act now. Please do your part and follow the social distancing guidelines so the dominoes don’t continue to fall across the country.
In an official news release the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced their decision to temporarily close recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide in the wake of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s order directing Washingtonians to stay home and stay healthy to limit the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, but it’s the right thing to do for the health and well-being of Washington’s families,” said WDFW Director Kelly Susewind. “Monday’s extraordinary order for the residents of our state to stay home requires all of us to work together to ensure these measures have the intended effect.”
WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham went on to say “we’ve seen an uptick in outdoor recreation at some locations in recent weeks as people have looked for ways to get outside. We’ve had reports of crowded boat ramps and busy fishing on some rivers, which runs counter to the governor’s direction to stay home and practice social distancing.”
Then, on March 30, they made the announcement to cancel the youth turkey hunt previously scheduled for April 4-5. In addition, six game management units (GMUs) that were scheduled to open on April 1 for spring bear hunting will now be closed pending further evaluation with the potential to reopen if conditions allow.
This announcement stirred up quite the controversy, as several shared their disappointment specifically pointing to the fact that exercise holds an exemption in these public recreation areas. WDFW Director Susewind understands the need to spend time outdoors but notes while hunting itself can be a solitary activity, many people have to travel from urban to rural areas to enjoy it.
“Every stop for gas, food, or a restroom break can introduce the virus to areas it hasn’t yet reached,” said Susewind. “It was a tough decision, but we want to ensure that people are properly encouraged to stay home at this time.”
Youth who were planning to hunt on April 4 or 5 may still use their tags in the regular spring or fall turkey seasons, pending further impacts. The spring turkey season is scheduled to run April 15 through May 31.
“Aspiring hunters often experience their first successful hunt over this weekend,” said Susewind. “It’s disappointing, but this is a serious situation, and we want our communities and the hunting public to successfully protect themselves.”
As far as what the future holds, here is what the release stated in regards to the possibility of future seasons and dates being impacted:
“On April 6, WDFW will reassess its ability to open the impacted hunting areas, as well as several other upcoming hunting seasons. The most notable upcoming seasons include spring turkey and additional spring bear hunts currently scheduled to open April 15.”