Fishing during COVID-19: Stay close to home and keep your distance

Anglers will be allowed to hit Minnesota lakes for the May 9 fishing opener, but state officials are urging them to stay close to home and to keep their distance from others at boat landings and bait shops. Good luck with that. File / News Tribune.

Minnesota officials continue to gear up toward some sort of normal fishing season this spring and summer, with opening day set for May 9, even though the state’s stay-at-home order is still in effect.

In one breath, state officials told residents to go fishing and hunting and get outdoors, and they took steps to remind the public that lodges are open and to allow bait dealers to gather minnows and sell worms at bait shops. In the next breath, they say only recreate outdoors close to home, in your own community, and that you shouldn't travel far to get outdoors.

That said, if you do go fishing (only with people you have spent the last month with and don’t stop along the way) the Department of Natural Resources has some tips on fishing in the age of COVID-19.

“As Minnesotans, we have a natural urge to get outside this time of year — and for many of us, that’s especially true this spring,” said Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director. “In light of COVID-19, we also ask this year that you take additional steps to protect yourself, your family and the people around you.”

When hitting the water, know the DNR’s COVID-19 outdoor recreation guidelines and practice the following to protect yourselves and others:


  • Maintain social distance of at least 6 feet. This includes places such as fuel stations and community docks, and means no beaching or tying up to other boats.

  • Boat only with people in your immediate household.

  • Boat close to home. Travel to and from the access site without making other stops.

  • When fueling, wash your hands as you would when fueling a car. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Do not touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • When launching and loading your boat, give people ahead of you plenty of time and space to finish launching or loading before you approach.

  • Keep in mind water-access site conditions may be different than in previous years. DNR-managed accesses are open, but spring maintenance is not completed, meaning there is probably no dock on-site.

  • If you have been diagnosed with, or are exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (including fever, cough, or difficulty breathing), stay home. This self-isolation period should extend for at least seven days after the illness begins and include 72 hours of being fever-free without using fever-reducing medications and resolution of other symptoms.

  • Know what’s open. To see what DNR-managed sites are available, see the DNR’s COVID-19 website or call the DNR information center at 651-296-6157 or 888 646-6367.

The DNR also reminds people that lakes and rivers remain very cold this time of year and a fall into the water could turn deadly in just a few minutes. So wear a life jacket — don’t just have it nearby.
“Even swimming or calling for help will be difficult,’’ the DNR noted in a warning this past week. “You’ll probably gasp uncontrollably and draw water into your lungs. Even strong swimmers may drown within minutes."

The cold-water season also isn’t the time to boat alone. This year, people should head out only with members of their immediate household and let others on shore know where they’re going and when they plan to return.

Keep the floor of the boat free of clutter to avoid tripping and falling into the water, and ensure the boat has safety equipment such as life jackets, communication and noise-making devices and a first-aid kit.

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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