This might be one of the strangest columns I’ve written. First, I will report on important new Utah laws affecting how we (residents) boat in the state, and non-residents boat in Utah waters. Then, I will explain my personal new rules during the pandemic, and how we can still fish and follow the guidelines set up to protect each of us during these very tumultuous times.
The governor just signed HB255, further assisting in stopping the spread of aquatic invasive species such as quagga and zebra mussels, which at present only found in Lake Powell. It is crucial that every boater, including motorized and non-motorized watercrafts, canoes, kayaks, float tubes, and paddle boats be aware that there will now be a $20-dollar fee for non-residents who launch their crafts in Utah.
The law also requires every boat owner complete an “online Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) education course about preventing the spread of quagga mussels, and must show proof of the course completion BEFORE they launch at a Utah waterbody.”
Tournament bass anglers have been asked to complete this education class each year for the past few years. Now, every boat owner will need to do the same. To access the course, go to www.wildlife.utah.gov and click under the main headings the “fishing” tag. Then scroll down the drop-down menu and click on “Invasive Mussels.” The next screen will be the “STD of the Seas” page and if you scroll down the page on the left-hand side almost to the bottom there will be a box titled “Full Year Certification” with a large check mark in the middle. It will then allow “Begin the course”.
“In addition,” continued the UDWR news release, “the new law requires anyone transporting a boat on a Utah highway, which includes any public road, street, bridge or other public-use structure, to remove all drain plugs from the boat and to drain all water from the live wells, bilges, ballast tanks or other similar compartments on the watercraft. Boats must be transported with all drain plugs removed. Anyone who fails to do so could be cited with a class C misdemeanor.
[There are a few other facets to the new law that I will tackle in a later column, including a way to use GPS signals to track the last body of water in which your watercrafts have been launched and the date of such activities.]
Now, here are my personal rules for fishing during the COVID-19 pandemic and how you can still enjoy the outdoors and stay as safe as possible.
1. Do not leave the county in which you live just to go fishing. Even though you may not realize it, the farther away from home to go, the greater chance you will need to stop for fuel, spend time in convenience stores, and potentially break the six-foot social distancing standard.
2. Never have someone other than family living in the same household on your boat when you fish. It is not appropriate to have neighbors, friends, or even family members share the boat with you during this time. I launch my boat, fish, and return home without ever breaking the social distancing requirements.
3. Don’t run to the tackle store to buy lures each time you fish. Purchase night crawlers or other baits ahead of time, expecting to use them during the lockdown period. It’s almost like having a food storage system for the fish.
4. Use your down time to prepare your tackle, boat, and gear. Learn to use a fish finder or other challenges we tend to put off once the fishing season begins.
For Jeri and me, although not being able to see our grandchildren, children or extended family has certainly been inconvenient, Zoom meetings and Alexa calls have kept us up to date with our loved ones. Spending time fishing, painting, photographing, hiking, and just being together has kept us active, fit, and positive. We will get through these tough times and some of us might actually thrive. Stay safe.