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WI sees unique Fishing Opener due to COVID-19

Updated: May 02, 2020 06:43 PM

Across Wisconsin, anglers took to lakes and rivers Saturday for the state’s fishing opener—while—business like charters remained idle in the waters due to regulations regarding COVID-19.

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“On a weekend like this, we’ll generate somewhere between two to three thousand dollars a day on our boats,” John Stieben, the owner of Optimum Charters—a three boat operation out of Barker’s Island Marina said. “We had six trips lined up for today that we had to cancel weeks ago because of this.”

This is because under Governor Tony Evers’ Stay at Home order, fishing with immediate family, away from other people is allowed. But—fishing with large groups or strangers is not allowed. So, the slots in which Stieben’s boats are typically docked sit empty until at least May 26th – something he said has taken a toll on his business.

“We’ve prepared for this for months now knowing this was coming. We’ve stocked up on hand sanitizers, methods to sanitize our boats, masks, I mean we’ve looked at all the CDC recommendations,” Stieben said.

While Stieben says he is following the regulations, he wishes they could be changed.

“We’re fishing on way bigger boats than anybody else is. There’s more social distancing on our boats and we can require masks, we can require all of the things that are not being required of four friends in a fishing boat on the lake today,” Stieben said.

But, COVID-19 didn't stop anglers from trying their luck from the docks.

“The coronavirus doesn’t stop us from fishing, that’s all I’ve got to say,” Cordell Brannan of Superior said. “We’ve also fished in the down pouring rain too so nothing really stops us from fishing.”

Meanwhile, the fishing opener in Minnesota is May 9th.

High Banks Resort–a small mom and pop business on Lake Winnibigoshish–said although Governor Tim Walz's Stay at Home order has been extended, it has been amended to allow cabins and resorts to open under strict protocol.

“In a way, I feel like we are starting over, you know, because everything is just so different,” Kim Leonhardt, owner of High Banks Resort said.

Some of these differences include practicing social distancing, requiring dock staff to wear personal protective equipment, limiting interactions during check outs and increasing cleaning procedures.

“We’re going to be fogging the cabins in change overs with the virus side and all the high touch points will be cleaned with a peroxide based disinfectant,” Leonhardt said.

High Banks Resort hopes fishing opener will allow them to make up for some lost revenue after a difficult winter, but says they have still experienced a number of cancellations.

“A lot of our cancellations are from non-residents who are fearful essentially. They’re fearful of the Stay at Home orders, they’re fearful of traveling outside of their home state,” Leonhardt said.

At the end of the day—those in the business hope that anglers will jump back on board after Stay at Home orders are lifted.

“I think we should just encourage people to get out and back and enjoy nature. You know, it’s a breath of fresh air and summer is there and the fish are waiting,” Leonhardt said.

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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