While COVID-19 has shut down much of New York state, a beloved spring rite for many — trout season — is still on.
The season opener is April 1, and while some outdoors enthusiasts had wondered whether the season might be canceled or postponed because of coronavirus concerns, the state Department of Environmental Conservation encourages residents to fish — with safety in mind.
In fact, DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said that during the public health crisis, getting outdoors and connecting with nature is just the ticket for mental and physical health.
“Fishing is good for the mind and body,” Seggos said. “I encourage all anglers ... to get outside and fish, but act responsibly by practicing social distancing and staying safe.”
Tens of thousands of trout will have been stocked in streams, lakes and ponds across Cattaraugus and Allegany counties. For complete stocking lists for Cattaraugus and Allegany counties look on the DEC website.
Some stockings had to be adjusted, as the DEC could not rely on the usual volunteers because of the coronavirus pandemic, but the agency said the trout will be in the waterways for the opener.
The DEC said anglers must continue to follow the CDC/New York State Department of Health guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19, as well as colds and flu:
• Keep at least 6 feet of distance between you and others.
• Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging and kissing.
• Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
• Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails and playground equipment.
The DEC recommends avoiding busy waters.
“If an angler arrives at a parking lot and there are several cars, they should consider going to another parking lot,” the agency recommended this week. “If an angler is fishing upstream, they should fish downstream of the other angler or consider fishing another day.”
Anglers fishing from boats should also maintain at least 6 feet of distance, the DEC noted.
To further limit the community spread of COVID-19, DEC is encouraging hunters, trappers, and anglers to purchase sporting licenses online.
STATE PARKS OPEN
State parks in both New York and Pennsylvania remain open for outdoor visitation, but people must avoid large group activities.
In New York, all entrance fees are being waived and all indoor visitor facilities are closed until further notice.
Some but not all public restrooms will be open for use; visitors should plan accordingly and call park offices for more information.
All state park playgrounds, athletic courts and sporting fields are closed.
“Park visitors should maintain 6 feet of social distance and visit parks for solitary recreational activities only,” state parks officials said this week. “If you arrive at a park and crowds are forming, choose a different park, a different trail or return another day/time to visit.”
New York State Park campgrounds are still accepting reservations for the 2020 season at this time, but officials are reviewing the COVID-19 situation to determine if some limits will need to be adopted.
Visitors who made a reservation prior to March 20, but wish to cancel will receive a full refund and will not be charged a cancellation fee.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources said all facilities at state parks and forests are closed at least until April 30. The public may still access trails, waterways, forests, roads and parking areas “for passive and dispersed recreation, such as hiking.”
The closures include officers, visitor centers, restrooms, campgrounds and cabins. Park users with reservations will receive refunds.
“During the past week we’ve seen many people hiking trails and heading to the outdoors as a way to get exercise and relieve stress,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “We remind everyone that it’s OK to go outside, but we should still be practicing social distancing to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19.”