The city of Maumee in Lucas County took pro-active steps Monday (April 6) to help contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) by curtailing fishing activity along the Maumee River in the community.
Meanwhile, also on April 6, the Ohio DNR announced it is temporarily suspending the distribution/sales of all non-resident fishing and hunting licenses and tags during the COVID-19 crisis.
Maumee Mayor Richard H. Carr said in a terse three-line statement that “effective immediately” the city is “…closing all access points to the Maumee River” as well as placing signage prohibiting parking “..on streets in the immediate vicinity of the river.”
Angling is of particular interest on the Maumee River now with the stream the scene of enormously popular fishing for the annual run of walleye there, followed by white bass.
And Maumee City is the home base for a number of popular sites that attract these throngs of walleye anglers. Among them are the White Street access, Towpath Trail, and Side Cut Park locations.
“The COVID-19 crisis places in danger, all health care workers, police officers, paramedic/EMT’s, and all whole jobs put them in contact with the public,” Kerr said in his statement.
Kerr said also this is being done “for the safety of our residents and all who serve use that we are enforcing this policy.”
A similar order was established last week by the mayor of Fremont on the Sandusky River, which sees a lesser run of walleye but its followed by a large run of white bass.
Responding to the order by the Maumee City mayor, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources issued a statement of its own.
“Maumee Mayor Rich Carr has expressed concerns about concentrations of fishermen during the walleye run, and he took steps to protect his community. We respect the mayor’s concern for the safety of his residents, and we will be supportive of these restrictions in any way we can,” responded the department’s chief of communications, Sarah Wickham.
Even so, the Natural Resources Department has faced calls for taking more action to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As Jack Marchbanks, the Director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, noted during DeWine’s Monday, April 6 news conference, “snow birds” returning to the state from winter retreats – as well as non-essential visitors to Ohio – are required to observe a 14-day self-quarantine protocol.
Marchbank said his agency will be posting signage at rest areas reminding visitors of the order.
However, some western Ohio local officials understand the self-quarantine request is not being observed by non-resident anglers. And these officials have urged the DNR to undertake steps to protect their people from the importation of COVID-19 by nonresident anglers.
One suggestion by Ottawa County Sheriff Stephen J. Levorchick appears to have taken hold, too.
Levorchick recently proposed to the director of Ohio Public Safety, Tom Stickrath, that rather than close the state-run public boat ramps in his county that the natural resources department should cease selling all types of non-resident fishing license until the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis becomes a history lesson.
“That makes more sense to me than closing the boat ramps entirely; my people here in Ottawa County use those ramps, too,” Levorchick said. “They’re a release for local anglers.”
To that end, the Ohio DNR accepted the argument proposed by Levorchick.
The department said in a statement of its own that “..in response to the public health situation with COVID-19” and the Ohio Department of Health’s Stay-at-Home Order, the Ohio Division of Wildlife “is temporarily suspending the sale of non-resident hunting and fishing licenses until further notice.”
This temporary suspension goes into effect at midnight tonight, April 6.
Sales will resume when COVID-19 guidelines change or are lifted, said ODNR Director Mary Mertz in the same prepared statement.
While individuals who currently possess a non-resident hunting or fishing license may hunt or fish in Ohio, they are asked to abide by ODH guidance and self-quarantine for 14 days before they do so, Mertz said in her statement.
Just what is at stake is reflected in fishing license sales. As of April 5, the Ohio Division of Wildlife had issued 4,961 non-resident annual fishing licenses.
And the sale of one-day licenses as of April 5 was 1,592, with non-resident “upgrades” being 80. The sale of three-day fishing licenses was 593 documents. Lake Erie one-day charter licenses totaled 66 as of April 5.
The April 5 to-date non-resident spring wild turkey-hunting permit sales totaled 585.
Declines in license sales generally has been observed for both Ohio resident and non-resident anglers and hunters during the coronavirus crisis.
A somewhat similar take on the sale of non-resident licenses has been taken in Kentucky. In that state, wildlife officials have stopped selling non-resident turkey-hunting tags until the COVID-19 threat has been beaten.