We're a few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, and people are getting a bit stir crazy.
April Fool's Day was this week, so maybe that's why so many people have been acting a fool.
The amount of misinformation I'm seeing on Facebook about hunting and fishing is a bit staggering, and I've done my best to correct these rumors whenever I see them. But honestly, there's only so much Facebook I can take.
One of the most common questions I've been seeing has been about whether hunting and fishing is still allowed in Kansas.
One reader, Bill Griffin, sent me an email with the following question: "for some of us fishing is essential to mental health....with that said, Do you know if fishing is considered acceptable in the safer at home order we are currently under? And if I get stopped pulling the boat and explaining I was going to the pharmacy, do you think anyone would accept that explanation?"
While I'm always appreciative of a clever excuse to go fishing, the truth is you don't need one. Fishing and hunting are still allowed in Kansas. In fact, I just went on Tuesday and caught some crappie. You are still allowed — more importantly, encouraged — to go outside and be active as long as you keep a 6-foot distance away from others. If you're fishing, that should be easy, as I start getting antsy if another angler comes within 60 feet of me. But if you're on a boat with a friend, for example, a good rule of thumb is to keep a fishing pole's length between the two of you, as an average fishing rod is about 6 feet.
“In these far from routine times, we’re recognizing more than ever the incredibly positive impact that getting out-of-doors can have on our mental and physical health,” said Brad Loveless, secretary for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. “Whether folks choose to go on a hike or bike ride, fish, pursue a spring turkey or simply watch the new birds that spring has delivered – there’s a multitude of ways in which we can all safely enjoy our public spaces, and early reports indicate Kansans are doing just that.”
As far as getting pulled over by the cops for hauling a boat, you shouldn't. Boating also is still allowed, and all state lakes with the exception of Chase State Fishing Lake are open, according to the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism.
"The only lake that I'm aware of being closed off to the public is Chase State Fishing Lake, but that was at the request of the local municipality (we just manage that one, we don't own it)," said Nadia Reimer, chief of public affairs for the KDWPT. "Other than that, all lakes should still be open to the public."
Other people have also posted on Facebook that they have been told to leave a lake (funny how they never say which lake) by sheriff's deputies or other law enforcement officials. Again, unless you’re fishing on Chase, or a municipal or county lake that has different rules — or fishing on private land you don’t have permission to fish — you shouldn’t be told to leave. If you are, have the law enforcement officers contact the KDWPT for guidance.
Always be aware of the regulations in your city or county by going to their website or Facebook pages to see what preventative measures they have in place, but one of the main reasons Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly has issued a statewide stay-at-home order is to prevent confusion between different counties about what is allowed and what isn't.
Also, because I know someone will try to spread this rumor at some point (if they haven't already), no order has been issued to take away anyone's guns or ammunition.
Another rumor about fishing that has somehow permeated is the idea that you can only fish if you plan on eating the fish you catch. For those of us who enjoy catch-and-release fishing, rest assured that this rumor is also false.
"KDWPT does not have any regulation that requires anglers fish only if they plan on consuming their take," Reimer said.
Reimer said one of the common false rumors she's heard is that nonresidents won't be allowed to hunt in Kansas this year.
"Obviously, select states may have quarantine restrictions in place, but nothing that says they can't come here," she said. "Our department will, however, refund spring turkey hunters their permit if they aren't able to travel for whatever reason."
Those traveling from states on the KDHE’s Travel Quarantine List,” which can be found at http://www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus, must self-quarantine upon arrival for 14 days prior to hunting and/or checking into a state park, according to a notice on the KDWPT website.
As a side note, when purchasing turkey permits, be aware that this season hunters in northeast Kansas will only be able to harvest one bird. A second spring turkey permit is eligible for purchase, but is only valid for Units 1 and 2 in northwest and north-central Kansas. If you are unsure which turkey unit you hunt in, there is a map available at https://tinyurl.com/sp3m9mh/. This change is not a result of the coronavirus, but instead a conservation tactic employed by the Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission. That move was made in November 2019.
Another rumor I've heard this week was that Council Grove Reservoir was closed. Again, incorrect.
"Campgrounds are closed but the Marina Cove Boat Ramp and Neosho Ramp is open," said Phil Taunton on Monday. Taunton lives on the lake and is married to Ginger Cansler-Taunton, who runs the Council Grove Marina. "Two KDWPT boat ramps are open on the reservoir. People were fishing there today."
Hopefully, this will put some of this misinformation to rest for a few days at least. If you have questions on the current state of hunting and fishing in Kansas, your No. 1 resource (aside from my columns, of course) should be the KDWPT. You can visit the agency's website at https://www.ksoutdoors.com or contact Nadia by email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions. You can also contact me by email at email@example.com.
“The last few weeks have undoubtedly brought increased use to our public spaces but there are opportunities at all of our areas to safely recreate with little-to-no problem appropriately social distancing,” Loveless said. “Spring seasons are just kicking off, and despite the fact that the crappie, walleye and blue cats are biting, and turkeys are gobbling and morels are popping up, we’re already witnessing our sportswomen and men doing a great job of giving each other plenty of space, as well as our state park visitors, and we’re confident we’ll see this continue.
“Despite the challenges that lay ahead, our department remains fully committed to keeping our public lands and waters accessible to all, and our employees working full time to maintain these open spaces so critical to our quality of life as Kansans.”