OUTDOORS: Anglers upset with statewide closures

Fishing, shellfishing closed statewide; area golf courses shut down

MANY ANGLERS ARE incredulous at the state Department of Fish and Wildlife’s move to temporarily close recreational fishing and shellfishing statewide through at least 5 p.m. April 8 to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s order directing state residents to stay home and stay healthy to limit the spread of coronavirus/COVID-19.

The closures will last until at least 5 p.m. April 8, 2020.

The department said it will re-evaluate on April 6 whether the closure may need to be extended.

“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,” said Fish and Wildlife Director Kelly Susewind. “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.”

Nearly 4,000 comments were posted on the agency’s Facebook post announcing the moves. A number of people dared Fish and Wildlife to catch them fishing, others demanded refunds on their fishing licenses. More took the opportunity to lambast the department for the decision and point out the difference between a crowded grocery and the inherent social distancing that comes with most fishing opportunities.

Still, fishery managers have reported that some anglers have been seen crowding banks on rivers such as the Cowlitz 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,” said Fish Program Director Kelly Cunningham. “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.

Golf courses close

Washington Golf, the state golf association, had sought insight from the governor’s office this week after his directive to close all non-essential businesses.

Golf courses are listed as non-essential, so no rounds will be permitted, but clubs will be able to maintain courses and keep them in shape for whenever play resumes.

Cedars at Dungeness and Sunland Golf & Country Club in Sequim, Peninsula Golf Club in Port Angeles and Discovery Bay Golf Club near Port Townsend all announced minimum two-week closures through their Facebook pages.

SkyRidge Golf Course in Sequim is closed until further notice as is Port Townsend Golf Club.

“This is a tough time we are all going through and I want to be on the right side of preventative measures,” Port Townsend director of golf Gabriel Tonan said.

Port Ludlow will be closed through April 24.

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