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Recreational fishing banned during Washington’s stay-at-home order

Fishing and boats used for other purposes are shown parked near the Seattle Fishermen's Memorial. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Included in the “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order from Gov. Jay Inslee is a ban on recreational fishing.

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“[A] complete recreational fishing closure in the state of Washington, in my opinion, is completely, completely ridiculous,” Tom Nelson from The Outdoor Line told KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson Show.

While both Nelson and Monson agreed that it makes sense to ban 50 people from crowding into a bar for happy hour or canceling events with thousands of people standing together elbow to elbow, it seems like fishing, a mostly solitary activity, could easily comply with all the rules of social distancing.

“[How] can we possible be farther away from anybody else than being in a boat on Puget Sound or on the shore of a river where are you not standing elbow to elbow,” Nelson said. “It is the very definition of social distancing, and it’s a healthy, outdoor activity.”

Nelson said the sport fishing community is already walking a fine line, especially in regards to the salmon fisheries. The Endangered Species Act and federal restrictions have made it so the fishing seasons are “carefully negotiated,” and now much of this fishing season is being lost.

“This is the first time in my 15 years on air that we haven’t had an open season to discuss,” Nelson said. “There’s nothing more useless than a fisherman that can’t fish.”

Aside from sport fishing, Nelson sees fishing as a healthy activity that allows people to be outside in nature, and be able gather food.

“For the life of me, I really can’t figure out what this would possibly benefit,” he said. “So we need to put some pressure of the [Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife]. I actually spoke to friend of mine that’s an enforcement officer for WDFW this morning, and it puts our enforcement personnel in an untenable, impossible position trying to explain to people why this makes sense.”

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This is a difficult time for everyone, Nelson recognized, and we are in “uncharted waters” with regards to the pandemic, but he believes there is a need for common sense, and hunkering down within reason. He said there is no evidence to be shown that you being on a boat with a family member you live with would spread the virus.

“Folks want to get outside. They want to enjoy the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and now we’re told that we can’t get on a stream or get in our boats and go do it.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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