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ODFW Did What WDFW Should Have Done by Lucas Holmgren

As of Friday April 10 at 11:59 PM it is illegal for non-residents to fish in Oregon state, barring those who have lived there for 6 months without establishing residency.

On the other side of the Columbia River, Washington State is closed down to all fishing - regardless of when and where. Private, public land - it's all closed until at least May 4th.

During the spread of Covid-19 and the subsequent "Social Distancing" measures, a massive change in lifestyle has become the norm for states all around the country. Many restrictions and closures of specific areas (State Parks, County Parks etc.) are in effect.

oregon clackamas river steelhead

A Clackamas River Steelhead caught by a Washington Resident in Late-March

Washington State, under the pressure of Jay Inslee, is the only state in the Union with a statewide ban.

Although Washington anglers, who purchased Oregon fishing licenses are unhappy with the restriction on traveling to Oregon and fishing, it does make sense from a standpoint of protecting the ability of Oregonians to fish.

Washington really should have taken that same approach.

Rural Oregon communities, who have low populations but great fishing, were reporting lots of out-of-town traffic from Washington residents looking to get into some fish during this time of uncertainty and closure. 

The Statewide Closure of fishing in Washington has put added pressure on Oregon, which would not have been an issue if WDFW had ordered a more "restricted" fishing opportunity.

Currently as it stands - here is the order:

Fishing and shellfishing seasons: All recreational fishing and shellfishing is closed until at least May 4 statewide in response to the governor’s order to "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" and limit the spread of coronavirus. 

wdfw fishing closed

In contrast - look at the "Outdoor Recreation" Order

  • Outdoor recreation during "Stay Home, Stay Healthy" order: 
    • Do outdoor activities only with people in your immediate household - not extended families. 
    • Enjoy the outdoors close to home instead of traveling. The general rule of thumb: If you have to drive, it's too far.
    • If you encounter others, maintain a minimum of 6 feet of physical distance.
    • Gatherings of any size are not allowed outdoors, just as they are not allowed indoors. 

This same logic could have been applied to fishing, but instead, fishing is seen as something other than outdoor recreation. Some of the main concerns were "ancillary" activities like fueling up, stopping by the store, and driving across the state.

Hindsight may be 20-20, but looking at the lead of 49 other states, there are ways to ensure social distancing, keep state lands closed, and still allow people to fish.

WDFW - here is a suggested solution.

  1. Reopen Fishing 
  2. Keep high-traffic areas closed to fishing and recreation
  3. No fishing outside of your own county.
  4. Only fish with members of own household or solo.
  5. No Guided Fishing until May 4th.
  6. No non-resident angling until May 4th. 

Do you agree with Washington's state-wide closure? Did Oregon have a better approach?