How COVID-19 Will Impact Your Fishing And Hunting Seasons

The Coronavirus pandemic means ever-changing regulations and guidelines for sportsmen across the country

The COVID-19 virus’ affect on lives, health, and the economy is well documented. The question all sportsmen and women now have is how will it impact spring hunting and fishing seasons? It’s an emerging story for sure, with each state making just-in-time decisions.

According to Stephanie Vatalaro, the Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation, “RBFF maintains that coming together through fishing, boating, and other outdoor activities during this extremely stressful and unprecedented pandemic is more important than ever. That said, it is mission-critical not to spread COVID-19. If the rivers, lakes, or beaches near you are open, and you’re following the CDC guidelines for social distancing, fishing is a great way to reduce stress and have fun. Closures related to fishing and boating access are dramatic and changing quickly, which is why we’re developing a section of our Take Me Fishing website to have up-to-date information. The central resource should be available on April 7.”

Due to its social, group-oriented nature, boating suffers the most. Maryland has temporarily closed all recreational boating as have large boating communities in high population densities: Chicago Harbor, San Diego Harbor, Lake Tahoe, New Smyrna Beach, among many others.

Since fishing can be done individually, anglers can practice social distancing while on rivers, lakes, or on beaches. States are trying to keep as many areas open through creative methods. Connecticut avoided large crowds associated with Opening Day by starting the season both immediately and ahead of schedule. In Alabama, fishing is considered an essential activity, so public lakes are open. However, Alabama beaches and public areas in their state parks are closed. Virginia fishing is open, and stockings will occur. But stockings won’t be publicized as they were in other years so that large crowds won’t head to the recently stocked waters. But some areas are closing, such as Washington State’s Columbia River. Fishing for salmon and steelhead fishing along with hatcheries and fish cleaning stations are temporarily closed. So are highly populated and widely popular fishing piers such as those found in San Diego.

Many states are trying to keep their hunting seasons intact, however, there are some changes virtually from coast to coast. Washington State closed access to nearly 6 million acres of public land, and canceled the youth turkey hunt and spring bear hunt. They are currently reassessing the opening of the general turkey season and additional bear hunts. Kentucky remains open but officials recommend applying social-distancing practices. Massachusetts’ turkey season requires licenses, tags, and harvest reports all to be conducted online. In Oregon, the tag sales deadline has been extended to May 1. Hunters who cannot travel for their hunt can get a refund as well as a reinstatement of preference points.

Where hunting and angling seasons suffer the most is in states where out-of-staters must self-quarantine for 14 days. Sportsmen traveling to Rhode Island, Montana, Nevada, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming will have to remain indoors for a two-week period. Other states like South Carolina, Maine, and North Dakota, require travelers only from specific states or regions (hotspots of the virus) to self-quarantine. Depending on places of origin, some out-of-state hunters and anglers may be able to continue with their season. Nebraska has shuttered their spring turkey season to non-residents though, and Alaska, too, has barred all non-residents from their spring bear hunt.

But unseen yet is the impact of the virus on the future of hunting, for many Hunter Safety Courses are closed. While Colorado’s hunting is open, all of their classroom certification courses are temporarily suspended. Oregon has closed their in-class sessions while encouraging prospective hunters to study online. All California hunter education classes are canceled until further notice. No online options are available.

State hunting and fishing regulations are changing almost daily. For example, Ohio has recently suspended all nonresident license sales and Pennsylvania has opened its trout season two weeks early. At the time of this writing, the links below contain important information for hunters and anglers about the Coronavirus. Use them to keep abreast of the changes that might affect you in the weeks ahead.

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Anglers fishing in a river.
Connecticut DEEP officials opened the 2020 fishing season early in order to avoid typical opening-day crowds. Matt Wettish

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Matt Wettish holding up a rainbow trout.
Matt Wettish with a solid rainbow taken during the early trout season. Matt Wettish

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Two hunters with large turkeys
Social distancing and self-quarantining guidelines are impacting non-resident hunters in numerous states. Gerry Bethge

Ohio

Oklahoma

  • ODWC General Page
  • Travel Restrictions
  • Note: Mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from New York tristate area (New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut), Washington state, California or Louisiana.

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

  • TPWD
  • Travel Restrictions
  • Notes: Mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, New Orleans, California, Louisiana, Washington state, Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, and Miami.

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming