Coronavirus: It’s OK to go fishing but anglers scrambling for equipment, bait

By David Figura. Source

Yes, it’s OK to go fishing during the coronavirus pandemic. April 1 is the opening day of New York’s trout fishing season, the state’s walleye season begins May 2 and both are still on, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

However, the window for anglers to stock up on fishing equipment and bait by simply walking into a local sporting goods store or bait shop is closing fast in many cases. And a number fishing guides are cancelling, or considering cancelling trips in upcoming weeks.

Late last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that all non-essential businesses across the state must close by 8 p.m. tonight or have employees work from home due to the pandemic. Many Sporting good stores and bait shops — unless they also sell items such as gasoline or propane — fall into the nonessential category.

Need to stock up on fishing line, lure or a new reel? How about bait? Fishing tackle will still be obtainable online, but buying live bait will get increasing difficult. A quick survey of Upstate New York sporting good stores and bait shops confirms that.

The Bass Pro Shops store in Auburn, according to its website is “temporarily closed” until further notice and customers are encouraged to shop online at

Small sporting good stores that also sell gasoline or propane — such as Fat Nancy’s in Pulaski or the Thousand Island Bait Store in Alexandria Bay — are considered essential businesses and will remain open and continue to sell fishing supplies until further notice, according to officials interviewed at those two businesses.

Small bait shops that don’t offer gas or online purchases will suffer in the weeks and possibly several months ahead, unless they can work out alternatives like curbside contact-less pickups or honor box situations for such items as bait.

James Daher of Mickey’s Bait and Tackle Shop in North Syracuse, wrote on the store’s Facebook page:

“As of 8 p.m. Sunday Mickeys Bait & Tackle will no longer be able to conduct business,” he said. “Please take advantage of this by loading up on bait supplies.”

Later in the day, Fran Daher (Jame’s brother) updated the store’s status: “We will try to apply for essential status by submitting (a form to the state) to continue doing business as a single proprietor. Like the restaurants with curb side service,” he said.. “In the meantime, we can do mail order through our EBay sell bucktail Jigs, and worm harnesses and more.”

Meanwhile, many fishing guides, although they’ve received no official order to do so, are strongly considering or have already cancelled and trying to reschedule trips they had booked in upcoming weeks.

Capt. Tony Buffa, of Capt. Tony Buffa Fishing Charters out of Oswego, has been guiding on Lake Ontario for 44 years. Although he has posted nothing yet on his Facebook page, he said all his trips through April have been cancelled..

“I’m taking the high road,” he said. “There’s no social distancing on a charter boat. You have clients traveling in from elsewhere and you don’t know they carrying with them. I don’t want to be the person who gets sick or gets this passed on to someone else.”

Shane Muckey, of Altmar, who runs Altmar Outfitters fishing lodge on the Salmon River, wrote on his Facebook page:

“It took a lot of thought, a lot of thought, but in the best interest of my family and my guests and their families (the lodge) will be closed until I feel its safe for everyone to stay here.. Whether its legal to be open or it isn’t doesn’t concern me, this is way more important then that. This was a very hard decision for me to make as I rely on the money I make in March and April to get me threw the summer months until the salmon guys come rolling in in august. I have lots of guys wanting to stay with me this up coming week and the week after, and it was tempting to say yes and make that money. But I couldn’t live with myself if I caused someone’s death.”

Finally, Carol Frey, of the Chittenango Lions Club, confirmed this morning that the annual Oneida Lake Walleye Fishing Derby, set for May 2-3 (opening weekend of the walleye fishing season) has been cancelled.


From the DEC: “During the current COVID-19 public health crisis, getting outdoors and connecting with nature while angling in New York’s waters is a great way to help maintain mental and physical health. While enjoying the outdoors, please continue to follow the CDC/New York State Department of Health guidelines for preventing the spread of colds, flu, and COVID-19:”

• Try to keep at least six (6) feet of distance between you and others
• Avoid close contact, such as shaking hands, hugging, and kissing.
• Wash hands often or use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
• Avoid surfaces that are touched often, such as doorknobs, handrails, and playground equipment.


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