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Hunting and Fishing Changes Due to COVID-19

Updated: Apr 15, 2020

Unprecedented times are upon us with the spread of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) throughout the United States and the world. Within the U.S., social distancing is occurring everywhere and states are taking individual approaches to try to ‘flatten the curve’. Due to different state mandates, it means different rules and regulations across the country. These rules come as fishing and spring turkey and bear seasons are starting. This patchwork of regulations causes confusion for hunters, anglers, and general outdoor recreationists about what they can and cannot do.

Almost all the states have closed public offices, shooting ranges, and some Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs). Other states have gone further to close some beaches, trails, and fish stockings to try to reduce the number of gathered people. In an even more drastic move, some states have extended or reduced regulations on season dates, while others have postponed or completely canceled seasons.

Please check with your state’s wildlife department for their specific changes due to COVID-19. Information in this article is subject to change without notice (and can become outdated daily) as states release new guidelines. Listed below are all 50 states in alphabetical order.

We will work to keep this list updated as new information is available.

Alabama – No changes as of 4/5,

Alaska – As of 4/5, non-resident brown and black bear hunting closed through May 31. All hunting activities, other than subsistence, must conform with the intrastate travel health mandate.

Arizona – No changes as of 4/5,

Arkansas – No changes as of 4/5,

California – No changes as of 4/5,

Colorado – No changes as of 3/31 If you are wanting to cancel your turkey hunt, CPW is waiving the 14-day minimum requirement for hunters to turn in their spring turkey license for a refund request as well as the $15 processing fee. They will also issue customers both a full refund and restoration of their turkey preference points used to draw a returned license upon request.

Connecticut – As of 3/31, DEEP opened their fishing season early on March 24.

Delaware – As of 4/5, out-of-state visitors must self-quarantine for 14 days before engaging in fishing, hunting, golf, visiting state parks and wildlife areas. All Delaware beaches are closed until May 15 or until the public health threat of COVID-19 has been eliminated. Beaches within Cape Henlopen, Delaware Seashore and Fenwick Island state parks are closed, except for limited vehicle access to beaches for the purpose of surf fishing for those with a current surf fishing permit.

Florida – As of 4/5, all recreational boats must be at least 50 feet apart. Each recreational vessel must not have more than 10 people on board. FWC extended some license renewals for March or April by 30 days view their website for more details.

Georgia – No changes as of 4/5,

Hawaii – As of 4/5, the DLNR Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation (DOBOR) has suspended all commercial operator permits until further notice. The DLNR Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) has closed all commercial tours on state trails and wildlife sanctuaries. Any vendors with tours already booked will be refunded.

Idaho – Updated 4/15, all non-residents must self-quarantine for 14 days; nonresident licenses, permits, and tags sales temporarily suspended; includes tags for black bear, turkey, mountain lion, and gray wolf, permits for black bear baiting, hound hunter, salmon, and steelhead, annual and three-year combination, fishing, and trapping licenses and more. Visit the website for a full list.

Illinois – As of 3/31, all upcoming scheduled events including hunting and fishing is canceled on state-managed or -owned sites while the state parks, fish and wildlife areas, recreational areas and historic sites are closed. Hunting and fishing is permitted on private property or sites currently opened to the public.

Indiana – As of 3/31, all 2019-2020 basic hunting, basic fishing, hunt/fish combo, youth licenses and stamps set to expire March 31, 2020, are valid until Friday, May 22, 2020.

Iowa – No changes 4/5,

Kansas – No changes as of 3/3 - Hunters traveling from states listed on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s “Travel Quarantine List,” must self-quarantine upon arrival for 14 days prior to hunting and/or checking into a state park cabin. Refunds will be available for those no longer able to travel.

Kentucky – Updated 4/3, standard nonresident spring turkey permits for 2020 will no longer be sold; Only non-resident hunters who have already purchased 2020 spring turkey permits, and can comply with the Governor’s Executive Order No. 2020-266 should consider hunting in Kentucky during the spring season. The order requires all non-residents who travel to Kentucky to self-quarantine immediately for 14 days upon arrival.

Louisiana – As of 3/31, recreational red snapper season opening delayed; the season date will be determined during the LWFC meeting on May 7.

Maine – As of 3/31, all inland waters opened to fishing, and MDIFW temporarily waived requirement for anglers to need a recreational fishing license to fish inland waters of Maine from March 20 through April 30.

Maryland – As of 3/31, subsistence hunting and fishing (limited hunting and limited recreational fishing and crabbing for sustenance) can continue, however social distancing must be adhered to strictly. Commercial fishing is deemed essential and may continue since it is part of the food supply chain.

Massachusetts – As of 4/5, DCR announced that they will be postponing the start of shoreline fishing at Wachusett, Sudbury, and Quabbin Reservoirs and the Quabbin Boat Launch Areas until Saturday, May 9.

Michigan – As of 3/31, charter and fishing guide operations that involve boats, canoes and other marine vessels are not currently permitted.

Minnesota – As of 3/31, county-owned boat ramps on the Rainy River are closed until further notice but fishing is still allowed.

Mississippi – As of 4/5, state Lakes, park lakes and state parks are closed.

Missouri – As of 3/31, MDC temporarily waived fishing permits from March 27 through April 15; this includes trout permits or tags.

Montana – As of 4/8, nonresident spring turkey and black bear hunting is suspended until at least April 24 and refunds can be issued, resident hunters need to follow travel and social distancing directive; FWP has closed group-use sites including fishing piers; fishing access sites, state parks and wildlife management areas remain open.

Nebraska – As of 3/31, NGPC will stop selling 2020 non-resident spring turkey permits effective immediately. Nonresidents who have purchased permits will be able to use them, but will not be able to purchase additional permits.

Nevada – No changes as of 4/5,

New Hampshire – As of 4/5, NH Fish and Game Department is not posting their weekly Fish Stocking Report online. They are no longer issuing kid's fishing derby permits or any bass tournament permits until further notice.

New Jersey – As of 4/5, Anglers must fish alone or with immediate family members and cannot fish in groups of any size (no matter how small), either on land or by boat. A minimum six-foot social distance between anglers must be maintained at all times. From April 1 through midnight on April 10, 2020, when waters again close, all trout caught must be released immediately unharmed to the water. Established season, size and creel limits for all other species apply, all gear restrictions for special regulation areas remain in effect. Waters reopen at 8:00 a.m. on April 11. At that time trout may be harvested in accordance with established regulations.

New Mexico – No changes as of 4/5,

New York – No changes as of 4/5,

North Carolina – As of 4/5, several public fishing access areas, boating access areas, Public Mountain Trout Waters, and some game lands are closed.

North Dakota – Updated 4/4, the upcoming paddlefish snagging harvest season has been canceled, a one-week snag-and-release season May 15-21 is possible (TBD). All fishing tournaments for April and May have been revoked.

Ohio – As of 4/5, the city of Fremont has closed all fishing access to the Sandusky River.

Oklahoma – As of 4/5, hunters and anglers traveling to Oklahoma from states where significant community spread of COVID-19 has been identified must self quarantine for 14 days once entering the state.

Oregon – As of 4/9, recreational hunting, fishing, crabbing and clamming is closed to nonresidents; the Columbia River is closed to all salmon and steelhead fishing. The spring bear tag sales deadline has been extended to May 1. If you can’t hunt due to COVID-19, you can get a refund and reinstatement of preference points.

Pennsylvania – As of 4/7, trout season opened at 8 a.m 4/7 which is 11 days earlier than planned in an effort to prevent large gatherings of people that may traditionally occur on opening day. Anglers should abide by social distancing guidelines, wear masks and not share fishing equipment with other anglers. There will be one Mentored Youth Trout Day on April 11; the March 28 regional Mentored Youth Trout Day has been canceled.

Rhode Island – As of 4/5, DEM closed Rhode Island’s state parks and beaches. Opening day of the trout-fishing season will not occur on its traditional date, DEM will announce when it is determined.

South Carolina – As of 4/5, all public access points to state beaches are closed, as well as closure of all public boat ramps, landings and other access points on the state’s lakes, rivers and waterways. SCDNR state lakes are open to bank fishing. All SCDNR Turkey Lottery hunts on WMA properties have been canceled.

South Dakota – As of 4/5, GFP will not be accepting tails for the 2020 Nest Predator Bounty Program until a later date (yet to be determined). The Crow Creek Sioux and Lower Brule Sioux tribes are closing the boat ramps near Big Bend Dam, near Fort Thompson, South Dakota

Tennessee –as of 4/5, TDEC announced it will close all 56 Tennessee state parks and state-owned state natural areas to the public effective April 4 through April 14.

Texas – As of 4/7, all state parks are closed indefinitely.

Utah – As of 4/5, if you have a spring limited-entry bear or turkey permit, and if circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected your hunt, you have the option of surrendering your permit. DWR limited which state parks you can visit (for any reason, including fishing and other wildlife related activities) to only within the county where you reside.

Vermont – No changes as of 4/5,

Virginia – As of 4/5, they are no longer be updating trout stockings on the website or the trout line; all stockings are still planned to occur.

Washington – As of 4/5, all wildlife areas and water access areas remain closed through May 4. The youth turkey hunt scheduled for April 4-5 is canceled. The spring bear season is also canceled. Statewide recreational fishing and shellfishing is closed until April 8. WDFW also canceled all planned razor clam digs.

West Virginia – As of 4/5, WVDNR waived the requirement for residents to possess a fishing license through April 24; applies only to state-regulated waters and includes waivers for trout and conservation stamps.

Wisconsin – As of 4/5, Wisconsin’s state parks and trails are open (and entrance fees are waived until further notice).

Wyoming – Updated 4/15, sale of nonresident daily and five-day fishing licenses suspended effective immediately; no hunting or fishing activities have been canceled, but the state has implemented a 14-day quarantine directive for people entering Wyoming through the end of April; nonresidents should stay home, unless they can observe the quarantine. If you're unable to use spring bear or turkey permits due to travel restrictions, call (307) 777-4600. Applicants can withdraw applications for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison by April 15, elk by May 8 and deer and pronghorn by June 1.

As a reminder, please check with your state’s wildlife department for their specific changes due to COVID-19. Information in this article is subject to change without notice (and can become outdated) as states release new guidelines.

- Jesse Harding Campbell, Huntress View, IG @jessehcampbell

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