BY D’ARCY EGAN
Lake Erie fishing guides will be allowed by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to begin taking take customers walleye fishing on Lake Erie starting Tuesday, May 12 at 12:01 a.m., not Friday, May 1, as reported to The Beacon by Director Mary Mertz of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Press Secretary Melanie Amato of the Office of Public Affairs and Communications for the ODH, said the charter fishing operations are among service businesses being allowed to open on May 12. The charter fishing industry had been shut down by the ODH due to the coronavirus pandemic when social distancing and Stay at Home guidelines were implemented.
Amato reiterated that charter fishing guides and their customers will need to diligently follow the COVID-19 protocols mandated by Dr. Amy Acton and the Ohio Department of Health.
Those protocols include:
- Require face masks or covering for all clients and customers.
- Conduct daily health assessments of employees and employers.
- Maintain good hygiene, social distancing and hand washing.
- Clean and sanitize workplaces often.
- Maintain social distancing practices of 6-feet between people.
Other than the listed protocols, there were no firm guidelines given to Ohio’s fleet of about 800 Lake Erie fishing guides.
“It will be up to the fishing guides to determine how to do this,” said Director Mertz of the ODNR. “It will probably mean a reduction in the number of fishermen on a boat, in order to maintain social distancing.
“This isn’t a one size fits all rule,” said Mertz. “Business owners will have to analyze their operations and make sure they comply. If a lot of charter captains don’t do that, or if there should be a spike (in COVID-19 positives), we could have to shut down fishing charters for the rest of the summer.
“We understand charter fishing will be less profitable when following the protocols,” said Mertz, especially downsizing the number of anglers on a boat to accommodate the social distancing rules.
An Ohio rule that also may be lifted soon, said Mertz, is a ban on the sale of non-resident fishing and hunting licenses. Out-of-state anglers and hunters presently can’t buy Ohio non-resident licenses. If they already have them, non-residents must self-quarantine for 14 days before fishing or hunting.
Retail stores and consumer and service businesses will be permitted to open on May 12, which Gov. Mike DeWine said was a “layered-in” attempt to assist businesses while still seeking to protect public health. So-called “hands-on” services such as barber shops, hair and nail salons, tattoo parlors, massage therapists and others will still be closed.