Social distancing while fishing during the COVID-19 crisis, be it Chesapeake Bay fishing or probing a lake while casting for slab crappie, is actually something that many of us perform on a regular basis. Heck, we do it because we love it—the solitude and peace of fishing alone or with close family members is what it’s all about in the first place. However, thanks to the scourge of COVID-19, isolating yourself and your family has taken on new meaning. So, can you still go fishing?

fishing while socially distancing
For the immediate future, social distancing while fishing will have to be in the plan. At least you can still take out the family members living with you, though!

Where Can I Go Fishing While Social Distancing?

The “where” part of the question is a big one, depending on where you live and the state and municipality rules in effect during this emergency. As we post this, for example, fishing is specifically allowed in Virginia and Delaware, and in Maryland a DNR update (3/30/20) states that “limited recreational fishing and crabbing for sustenance” can continue as the stay-at-home orders are in effect but “social distancing must be strictly adhered to.” Aside from state regulations, many parks and access points throughout the region are closed, in some cases there are recommendations to keep outdoor activities as brief as possible, and at all times, social distancing guidelines remain in effect.

We want to be perfectly clear: We at FishTalk cannot tell anyone in any state or county whether and where they can or cannot go fishing at any given time during this crisis, nor do we want to encourage anyone to leave their house unnecessarily where stay-at-home orders are in effect. The regulations differ from place to place, and the fluid nature of the situation means that anything we might post here could be invalid information in a matter of hours, much less days. So before you go fishing it’s up to you to confirm the legalities both where you live and where you plan to fish.

That said, we can help direct you to some of the government website that may be helpful. The US Fish and Wildlife Service is maintaining an excellent state-by-state closure webpage which breaks down which of their access points are open for use and which are not, and is updated daily. The Maryland DNR webpage has links to the latest COVID-19 updates front and center and posted this 3/31/20 update on fishing, hunting, and boating in Maryland; the Virginia Department of Game and Fish has a COVID-19 Update webpage as does the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources. Same goes on the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission site. Also, here's a link to the Potomac River Fisheries Commission (PRFC) with their latest news. Be aware, however, that county and municipality facilities may have policies differing from those of the state and/or the feds.

How Do I Social Distance While Fishing?

Social distancing while fishing is no different than it is with other activities. We absolutely, positively defer to the CDC guidelines to prevent getting sick in every way, shape, and form, and encourage everyone to click on the prior link and read the CDC recommendations carefully. That said, here are the highlights of social distancing while fishing:

  • Go fishing only alone or with family members who you’re already living with.
  • Stay at least six feet away from other anglers, hikers, dog-walkers, and any other people. (Tip: most fishing rods are six feet or longer, so check the specific length of yours and then you can use it as a gauge).
  • You shouldn’t need to handle or touch anything used by others, nor should you have to visit a store to go fishing, but if for some reason it’s necessary be sure to immediately sanitize your hands using CDC guidelines.
fishing alone for covid-19
Thanks to COVID-19, the term "the lonely angler" takes on new meaning in this day and age.

When Will Social Distancing and COVID-19 End?

That’s a question we surely can’t answer. But for as long as this goes on, we hope that some of us, at least, will able to get outside and go fishing when and where it’s permitted. If you can’t go to a store to buy bait, remember that digging for worms in the backyard, cast-netting for minnow, or scooping grass shrimp with a dipnet pulled along the shoreline are always options. (We received an email from one reader who grabbed a block of cheddar cheese out of the refrigerator rather than go to a store, and he loaded up on blue catfish—great thinking!) Hang tough, anglers. Hopefully soon we’ll be able to go fishing with our buddies once again. But at least for now, social distancing rules—at the very least—apply.