By Chris Wood
Wood is the president and CEO of Trout Unlimited, the nation’s oldest and largest coldwater fisheries conservation organization.
As states begin to ease stay-at-home restrictions, those among us who appreciate the outdoors will be called to get out to our public lands, waters, and parks and do what we love to do: fish, hunt, hike, bike, paddle.
We at Trout Unlimited have been hearing from some of our industry partners that interest in fly fishing and other outdoor recreation is booming. One fly shop reported that its online sales in April were up 700 percent over last year. As states gradually re-open, guides and outfitters are fielding lots of inquiries and taking reservations. Other outdoor businesses are struggling, and local anglers want to support them.
I spend most spring mornings in a rowboat on the Potomac River by dawn to cast for hickory and American shad. This has been the Lost Spring, but we hope that will soon be ending.
Fly fishing and other outdoor recreation is a great “out” during these challenging times. But as we enjoy outdoor pursuits this year, it’s important that we stay safe and think about the impacts of our actions on our communities, families, and friends.
That’s why Trout Unlimited is partnering with some of our conservation partners to spearhead what we’re calling a #ResponsibleRecreation campaign. Throughout the spring and summer, our organizations will be encouraging all Americans to enjoy outdoor recreation while adhering to common-sense social distancing guidelines and local, state, and federal COVID-19 safety protocols.
Anglers can find solace and inspiration on the water. In times like these, we need the restorative power of nature. But when we do go out to fish, we need to recognize that we all have a duty to practice responsible behavior during this pandemic. The safety of our families and communities depends on it.
Trout Unlimited has offered our 300,000 members and supporters some guidance on this front in conjunction with infectious disease experts. The basic takeaways:
• Stay local and fish home waters.
• Fish alone or keep your distance—a fishing rod’s length from each other is a good rule of thumb.
• Wear face coverings for your nose and mouth.
• Follow state and local fishing ordinances and other state and federal guidelines.
As part of the campaign, TU is running a social media contest to encourage anglers to share cool images of themselves practicing #ResponsibleRecreation in their local communities. We’ll give prizes to the best contributors. The organization has also been offering free memberships to first responders and essential workers as a small gesture of thanks to those treating the sick, stocking the shelves, keeping us safe, and otherwise keeping our country functioning.
It is important to get the word out to anglers and hunters to be smart about outdoor recreation this year so we can continue to enjoy our passions while being good citizens and helping keep our communities safe.