March 18, 2020
By Florida Sportsman Editor
The Florida Sportsman Staff wishes everyone the best in these difficult times. We're following the social-distancing, isolation and hand-washing guidance best we can ourselves, keeping track of the advice of the Florida Dept of Health (https://floridahealthcovid19.gov/) and the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html). At this writing, March 18, our in-house editorial and production teams are busy putting together the next print issues via our secure, efficient network. We're also constantly updating our website and social media content on a daily basis.
We want you to know we're going to do our best to make sure the stories we run reflect these changing times. But we're also human, and we apologize if we “miss a beat.” We also want you to know we are gearing up to bring you fresh new content—and new surprises--to keep you informed and entertained. You're important to us, and we're confident we can make it through the next several weeks staying healthy and also passionate and prepared to enjoy the outdoors… with the interests of personal and public safety taking top priority, of course.
Today, we thought we'd do a quick checkup with our Field Editors, just to gauge the fisheries around Florida. Weather, at least, has been terrific—no more of those gales of early March. Fishing is good, too, though undoubtedly anglers are changing things up to take added precautions befitting the COVID-19 circumstances. Keep in mind these are observations, “taking temperature” of local scenes—not specific or authoritative directions on how to behave. Would it be safer to stay home, versus launching your boat or hitting the beach? Not for us to say. Stay posted to state and local authorities for guidelines on travel, closures of ramps or other facilities, recommended crowd sizes and other vital measures.
--Jeff Weakley, Editor
From Ray Markham, our West Central Florida Field Editor:
“Most tackle shops are saying business has been very slow, and that the virus added insult to an already injured fishery that is closed for snook, trout, and redfish. But this past week the boat ramps were full. Those with money are cautious but hiring some guides. Others who are out of work are going fishing from piers, seawalls, wading, etc. I haven't been able to find toilet paper or bottled water for two weeks. I'm having to buy Gatorade for charters."
From Bill Greer, our Northwest Florida Field Editor:
“Guides I've talked to have some cancellations. Lots of tournaments cancelled but lots of anglers on the water. The fishing is great and so is the weather. Things are subject to change but fishing is one activity that you can do without interacting with a lot of people. Fishing could actually pick up with a lot of people staying home. But anglers need gas, supplies, bait, food, etc.”
From Bill Sargent, our East Central Field Editor:
“If the virus concerns continue more East Central Florida residents and visitors will continue fishing as a safe means of enjoying the fresh air, eluding the crowds, and basically getting out of the house. It may be nothing more than throwing a line from a bridge or causeway or dusting off the boat in the garage and heading out for a day. Freshwater and saltwater guides, along with ocean charter businesses, are benefiting from the closures of Walt Disney World and other Central Florida attractions by vacationers looking for substitute activities. Some tackle shops are seeing a reduction in their retail business, but shop operators say folks are continuing to fish. Those on the waterfronts and those offering live baits are doing the best.”
From Alan Sherman, South Florida:
“South Floridians are concerned and taking all of the recommended precautions as best they can. Local fishing industry is seeing bookings canceled, bait and tackle shops closing for the time being or short on products. ”
From Brenton Roberts, Southeast Field Editor:
UPDATE: As of an hour ago (Mar. 20) the Dade County boat ramps will remain open from 7 a.m. till dusk. However all passengers of the vessel being trailered must be in the vehicle that is trailering that vessel. No passenger vehicles will be allowed at the boat ramp. This information is in my words as I heard it from a county representative.
Talk of boat ramp closures (whether it happens or not) around the Southeast region has anglers a little on edge. Many captains have, and continue to lose trips, which is a bummer, because the fishing is so good right now! Pompano still hanging on our beaches and in the river, the snook bite is really starting to get good as the warming trends continue. Heck, my uncle has even been catching some jumbo yellowtails in 50 feet of water, out of Stuart this week!
From Ralph Allen, Southwest Florida:
“Summary of what I see right now, knowing that things are changing at lightning speed: It's busy on the water! Looks like our anglers are taking advantage of the onset of our spring fishing to dose themselves with some well-needed distraction from the agony of the news cycle in a setting where social distancing is measured in how many casts it is to the next boat.”
From Steve Dall, Ten Thousand Islands:
“Each day throughout the past 6 days, the world has literally changed every day from the time I have left the dock, until the time I return. New updates, new orders, new suggestions, new closings, new limitations. The only solace is that this fishing brethren we are all apart of has left the worries behind while out on the water and I have seen firsthand the powerful therapy of what we all do provides to people and in large part, it has nothing do with the fish.”
From Rick Ryals, Northeast Florida:
“The different reactions among the fishermen of Northeast Florida has been in direct proportion to their occupation. The charter industry is a wholesale panic, with cancellations pouring in from all directions. The recreational guys all seem to agree the safest place to be is out on the water. While that may or may not be true, we hope someone on land contacts us when the crisis has passed!”
Frank Sargeant, frequent Florida Sportsman contributor and well-known outdoors writer, wrote a good editorial this week in The Fishing Wire, which he edits. Here is the link: thefishingwire.com/archives/2020-03-16
As of Sunday, March 21, all Florida Keys hotels will be closed, pursuant to orders by Monroe County government officials.
Last but not least, a quick message from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC):
The health and safety of employees and the Floridians and visitors we serve are a top priority for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). As COVID-19 (Coronavirus) continues to impact our communities, the FWC is taking proactive measures such as canceling and/or postponing meetings
and other large group gatherings to protect stakeholders, staff and volunteers. The FWC will provide updates about when events and activities will resume as information becomes available.
Should any changes to FWC policies apply, we would communicate those updates through our social media channels and website: Twitter, Facebook and online here: https://outreach.myfwc.com/events/event_list.asp?
Currently, wildlife management areas (WMA) remain open to the public. However, out of an abundance of caution, we recommend hunters and other WMA users monitor the open/closed status of the WMA they're interested in. Please note, a couple cooperators have closed their recreation sites and/or campgrounds The FWC continues to be in close communication with the Governor's Office, the Florida Department of Health and the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regarding the most recent COVID-19 status and guidance. For any other questions related to COVID-19 in Florida, please contact the Department of Health's dedicated COVID-19 Call Center by calling 866-779-6121 or emailing COVIDfirstname.lastname@example.org. The call center is available 24 hours a day.