LONGVIEW, Wash. — On Tuesday anglers, hunters, and hikers will be allowed to pursue their hobbies of choice for the first time in six weeks.
In March the state made a much maligned decision to call off all fishing and hunting in Washington in order to help curb the spread of coronavirus.
While those restrictions helped to keep folks shuttered inside the loss of those outdoor recreation opportunities left many Washingtonians wondering what the heck to do with all of their newfound time.
Beginning on Tuesday, the day after Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order was originally set to expire, outdoors enthusiasts will be able to return to their favored stomping grounds in order to hunt, hike, and fish to their hearts’ content.
Of course, in these times of COVID-19 precautions, there will still be a few extra safety measures to keep in mind.
Specifically, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking recreators to stay as close to home as possible while pursuing their preferred pastime, and to still adhere to social distancing practices even in the mass expanses of the great outdoors.
“We’ve had so many people doing their part to stay home, and we’re seeing results. We’re now at a point where we will soon be able to begin welcoming people back outdoors,” said Kelly Susewind, WDFW director, in a press release. “I’m asking people to take what they’ve learned these past few weeks and continue putting these measures into play as you fish, hunt, and enjoy your local wildlife area. We’re happy to reopen these opportunities, and we need you to continue working with us to stay safe.”
Freshwater fisheries will all reopen on Tuesday.
Puget Sound saltwater fisheries in Marine Areas 5-13 will also open on Tuesday, except for halibut, shrimp and shellfish harvesting.
Additionally, coastal saltwater fisheries in Marine Areas 1-4, including coastal clam digs, will also remain closed.
According to the help at the Bob’s Sporting Goods fishing desk, who preferred to only provide his first name, there are plenty of anglers out there who are anxious to wet a line.
“It seems like there’s been an uptick,” John said. “I think the general consensus is that everybody’s just happy they can fish. Happy to enjoy the weather and happy to be outside.”
The man behind the counter said there hasn’t been any sort of pattern as far as what folks are looking to stock up on, or where they plan on trying their luck.
On the whole, the stream of customers just seem ready to be near the water, wherever that may be.
“Right now everybody’s got their mind made up after being cooped up for a month and a half,” said ol’ long John. “They’ve had plenty of time to think about where they’re gonna go.”
Luckily, throughout the closures the WDFW has maintained their regular fish stocking work so area lakes and ponds should be teeming with untapped piscatorial prospects.
A pair of limited hunting seasons will also be reopened on Tuesday with hunters allowed to get back on the trail of spring turkeys and black bears.
Both the turkey hunt and the black bear hunt have been extended to June 30 in order to help make up for lost time in the field.
Black bear hunts are by permit only and the application deadline is long gone, so if you don’t have your permit yet, go ahead and stay home or go fly a kite.
The general turkey opening will take place on both sides of the Cascade mountains.
Hunters are limited to three turkeys in the spring, only two of which may be harvested in Eastern Washington. Additionally, only one turkey may be harvested from Chelan, Kittitas, or Yakima counties (combined).
Only one turkey may be taken from Western Washington except for Klickitat County where two gobblers may be harvested.
With all those fish waiting to be caught, and birds and bears trying not to get blasted, the WDFW is making sure to remind anglers to be prepared for some inconveniences.
First and foremost, access to restrooms at boat launches, wildlife areas, and other state managed sites will be limited.
As a result, the WDFW is encouraging the public to bring their own hand washing supplies, toilet paper, masks or bandannas.
“If sites become overcrowded or other COVID-19 related public safety concerns develop, the department may reclose areas to further protect public health and safe resource management,” read the WDFW press release.
The sale of out-of-state licenses will remain suspended at this time in order to cut down on travel and COVID-19 exposure concerns.
State managed recreation lands will also open on May 5 for limited local use.
In particular, that means no overnight stays will be allowed. However, a press release from the WDFW noted that it may take several days for staff to unlock all of the gates that have been shuttered since March.
Additionally, the WDFW says that some parks may not reopen immediately in order to help reduce any COVID-19 impacts on isolated rural communities.
Visitors centers, camping areas, and other overnight domiciles on state lands will also remain closed until further notice.
Questions or concerns can be directed to the WDFW Wildlife Program by phone at 360-902-2515 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additional information about land use can be found on the Department of Natural Resources website at dnr.wa.gov/open.