Health advisories on permissible activities outside the home are being updated daily. At this point, we can still get outside to stay active as long as we maintain social distancing.
The streams are a great place for folks to spread out and enjoy some time fishing, but it is important to remain separated from other anglers. As long as we are acting responsibly, the fish will be stocked and provide a great diversion for us. If trout stocking increases the social contact on streams and lakes, then it would be entirely understandable to curtail stocking to avoid the increased risk to our collective health.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department has begun spring stocking in Rim Country lakes and streams and at their regular locations across the state. AZGFD is counting on us to be responsible.
That means that we must keep social distance where we park and where we fish in the National Forests. Full parking lots and the possibility of folks overcrowding some popular spots in the National Forests has prompted the US Forest Service to close campgrounds and many popular day-use areas.
These days, folks are just looking for an opportunity to get out in nature and avoid going stir-crazy. Places like Water Wheel on the East Verde River can become overrun with cars and hikers. That is the situation that the USFS is trying to manage for our common good and why the Water Wheel day-use parking area is closed.
When these day-use areas are closed, it is important that barriers are left and that access to fishing along the vast stretches of the stream done responsibly. That would mean that we must abide by the parking restrictions and maintain social distancing. Parking along the road in safe pull-outs is acceptable, but not if there are already other cars there and it causes congestion and traffic safety issues.
Even fishing in town has the potential to pose undue risks. I like to spend time at Green Valley lakes, but I turned around and headed home after a recent drive to check out the lakes. The number of folks that were using the lake and park surprised and discouraged me. Many were on the docks and along the shore in relatively close proximity, and the parking lots were full.
Somehow I think we feel protected living in an isolated community. We see other places on the news having serious health issues and believe that because we only have two confirmed cases in Gila County, as I write this, that somehow the coronavirus has not gotten to us yet. It has! We just don’t know how widespread it is.
If we do not take full measures of caution and choose strategies to better protect ourselves and our community, we will soon find that the medical services in our isolated community will not come close to meeting the needs of our residents.
Even if you are using an area that is still open, please consider the risks to yourself, to others that you might meet in the woods, and the potential burden that you could cause to an increasingly fragile health care system if you needed emergency help.
I am a big advocate of allowing adequate space between anglers on streams and lakes. One thing we’ve always talked about in my elementary and middle school after-school classes is fishing courtesy. We teach the kids that if a person has selected a fishing spot on a lake, you need to be sure that you are not encroaching on the arc that they might potentially cast to.
On a stream, that translates to not fishing the same hole and, in fact, taking care to allow for movement of the other anglers. For me, that means that I will be a couple hundred feet upstream or downstream from a fisherman I know is likely to be on the move after they leave the pool they are fishing. That way, by the time they get to water I fished, the trout have had a chance to rest and get back into their feeding routine.
These forms of courtesy are perfect for the social distancing that we need to practice now. Please consider what you can do to help the Rim Country community to best manage this pandemic and reduce any undue stressors to the system.