ANGLING FOR A NEW ADVENTURE
With Options Limited During Stay-At-Home Order, Louisianians Angle For a New Adventure
story by Sherry Morton, LDWF Public Information
March 2020 brought sweeping changes to the state and nation. With the number of COVID-19 cases rapidly increasing in Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a “Stay At Home” order effective March 23. The order, which was to help mitigate the spread of cases, encouraged people to go outdoors to get exercise as long as they practiced social distancing.
And in Louisiana, people did get outside. From March through May, LDWF sold 62,763 more fishing licenses than the same time period in 2019 - an increase of 60 percent.
“This is fantastic that our residents decided that Louisiana’s Sportsman’s Paradise is where they wanted to spend some time during the pandemic,” said Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) Secretary Jack Montoucet. “It’s no secret that fishing is in our blood, but we have been pulled away due to so many competing activities. The stay-at-home order showed that when given the time, Louisianans will choose to fish.”
The uptick in license sales was a pleasant change-of-pace for LDWF.
“As of February, we were on pace to do worse than we had in previous years,” said LDWF Undersecretary Bryan McClinton. “Our basic fishing license sales has been on the decline, from 2014 to now, with the only saving grace being the last three months of the 2020 fiscal year.”
Montoucet said he hopes sales continue to move upward, as the revenue is vital to the life of the department and its ability to enforce safety on state waterways, conduct biological testing of fish and wildlife, fight invasive vegetation in state waterways, and maintain wildlife management areas. LDWF does not receive funding from the state.
Furthermore, the interest in fishing is good news for Louisiana’s economy.
“We hope the increase in license sales is also providing some much needed relief for the locally owned restaurants, docks and sporting goods stores that depend on fishing for their livelihoods,” Montoucet said. “Anglers spend over $800 million annually on fishing trips and equipment in Louisiana. This is an important stimulus for our economy; not to mention a fun time with family and friends.”
Bailey Powell, a 23-year-old resident of Rosedale, said that she hadn’t been fishing since she was a kid.
“But I started going again since the pandemic,” she said. “Now, I go fishing almost every weekend. My dad is super impressed because when I was a kid, I wouldn’t touch any of the crickets, worms, fish or anything. But now I bait my own hook, and take the fish off and everything.”
Powell said she believes she will continue fishing.
“It has become something that I really look forward to,” she said. “It is so relaxing being on the water. Especially when we go to places we haven’t tried before - you get to explore around and see how pretty everything is.”
The Conrad family of Broussard has also started fishing again recently. Stacy Conrad said that she, along with her husband and two daughters, ages 9 and 18, hadn’t purchased fishing licenses in the past few years.
“But we ended up buying new ones this March,” she said.
Stacy’s 9-year-old daughter, Ella, was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when she was three - one of the youngest ever to be diagnosed in the United States - and was put on immunosuppressants because of her condition.
“So when the pandemic hit, we had to take it very seriously,” Stacy said. “We knew we were going to have to keep her busy, but there was nothing to do. She loves the outdoors, so we went down to the Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge to go crabbing. She loved it! We started going once a week, sometime twice, bringing fishing poles, catching reds. She would wake up and ask if we could go fishing!”
Stacy said on days when they don’t leave the house to go fishing, Ella heads over to their neighborhood pond, which is stocked with bream and bass.
“If it isn’t raining, she fishes every day,” Stacy said. “Fishing has really helped to keep her spirits up. Really, the only place we have been is to go fishing. It is what has gotten her through not having constant contact with friends. She loves it.”
Since her passion for fishing has developed this spring, Ella has decided she wants to be a marine biologist or a game enforcement agent. And, her family was happy to learn that just a few weeks ago, she was declared in full remission, and was able to discontinue taking her medicine.
Jamie Williams of Mire is another Louisiana resident who has enjoyed having more time to fish - and sharing the joy of wetting a line.
She grew up freshwater fishing with her dad, and she recently purchased a boat so she could do more fishing, including saltwater fishing.
Since she got her boat, and especially during the pandemic, she has enjoyed taking friends and family out on the water.
“I have a lot of close friends who have never really fished, or have only been fishing a couple of times in their life,” she said. “I am trying to do a lot of teaching. I am passionate about women fishing.”
She recently took out a friend’s daughter, along with her boyfriend, who really enjoyed the experience.
“I took them out to Big Lake a couple weekends ago, and we caught a bunch of trout,” Williams said.
Williams also took a co-worker fishing during the pandemic to help lift her spirits. Her co-worker, Whitney McCray, had recently lost her job as an outpatient therapist. And, because she has asthma, she hadn’t left her house in almost three months because of the pandemic.
“She enjoys fishing but hasn’t done it in years,” Williams said. “I took her to Big Lake, and we caught our limit of trout and a couple of redfish. She said, ‘That was the best therapy in the world!’”
LDWF hopes to see the upward trend of license sales trend continue into the coming months and beyond.
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