The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) temporarily closed recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide at midnight on Wednesday, March 25. The closure follows Washington Gov. Jay Inslee’s order directing Washingtonians to “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Closure is expected until at least 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 8, with the WDFW re-evaluating and possibly extending the closure on Monday, April 6.
“This is not a decision we take lightly, but it's the right thing to do for the health and well-being of Washington's families," WDFW Director Kelly Susewind said in a news release. "Monday's extraordinary order for the residents of our state to stay home requires all of us to work together to ensure these measures have the intended effect."
Fishery managers have reported that some anglers have been seen crowding banks as concerns over coronavirus have continued.
“We've seen an uptick in outdoor recreation at some locations in recent weeks as people have looked for ways to get outside,” WDFW Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham said. “We've had reports of crowded boat ramps and busy fishing on some rivers, which runs counter to the governor's direction to stay home and practice social distancing.”
In addition, many salmon and steelhead fisheries require regular monitoring under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which includes conducting angler interviews at access sites surrounding the state's marine waters. The on-site, face-to-face nature of angler interviews puts people at potential risk of transmitting the coronavirus. Without such monitoring, these recreational fisheries must close to ensure ESA protections.
WDFW enforcement officers remain on duty and will be enforcing these new closures.
For now, the lowland lakes opening day for trout remains scheduled for April 25. However, this will be evaluated depending on future events and whether the governor's "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order is further extended.