Lately it occurs to me the Grateful Dead line, “What a Long Strange Trip It’s Been,” is more relevant than ever. The Coronavirus has impacted every facet of our great nation. Besides the tragic loss of lives, the pandemic has forced stay-at-home orders, caused shortages and disrupted the economy. This, in turn, has triggered stress, anxiety and isolation. Fortunately there is a fun and beneficial way to cope—Go fishing! Even under the various stay-at-home guidelines, fishing is allowed as outdoor recreational activity and rightly so.

Saltwater fishing is the perfect way to social distance and combat cabin fever. Once you’re on the water you’ll enjoy fresh air and all that nature has to offer. Follow along as an osprey hunts its next meal. Watch as sea turtles and stingrays glide gracefully through the depths. There’s nothing like the spectacle of a huge school of dolphin herding bait or a free-jumping sailfish catapulting towards the sun.

Fishing is a great way to re-connect with your kids and family. In small groups, of course. It’s the chance to make lifetime memories. Fishing teaches patience, hand/eye coordination and persistence. Being on the water is also a great opportunity to demonstrate safe boating practices and learn navigation. And there’s always the chance for a fresh mahi or tuna steak for the grill afterwards.

Even though some boat ramps and marinas remain closed due to the pandemic, coastal access is still available. And more facilities are opening daily as the guidelines are eased. Certain precautions are recommended, however.

If you have to stop for fuel and supplies, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands. Observe the customer capacity inside stores and wear a face mask. Buffs and similar style neck gaiters are excellent for this, plus they help protect against sunburn on the water. Keep the number of passengers aboard to reasonable numbers, per the government guidelines. Give others a wide berth around the docks and cleaning tables.

Comply with all bag and size limits; conservation is even more important now. Don’t raft up with other boats—maintain aquatic social distancing. Practice safe boating and the Golden Rule.

Tournament fishing has always been a treasured past-time with family and friends. As we await its return to the Gulf, replay these scenes from memory: The bustle of the docks and the tote board topping one million dollars. The drifting clouds of diesel smoke as the fleet throttles up in the race to the rip. The buzz of the crowd as another gleaming sportfisher backs up to the scales. The joyous eruption after the weight of another huge fish is announced.

We will get through this. In the meantime, check the marine forecast, grab the tackle and get on the water. You’ll find fishing is the best Coronavirus therapy there is!

2019 Tournament Champions – It Just Takes Time