Fishing in the time of COVID-19

By Sinang Lee and Khanh Ho, Environmental Health Services Division

Now that Washington State has re-opened for some fishing in a phased approach as of May 5, we want you to know how to enjoy the outdoors while staying safe and healthy – from the fishing site to the catch on your plate.

Guidance for Responsible Recreational Fishing

  • Make it a day trip close to home. King County boasts many beautiful lakes for a quick day trip. Most rivers/streams in King County are closed until May 23 (including the Green/Duwamish River). Prefer saltwater fish?  Puget Sound Marine Areas 5-13 are open, but NOT for catching halibut or harvesting shrimp and intertidal shellfish. Marine Areas 1-4 remains closed. You don’t need to go far. Here in King County, you can find a nearby pier or boat ramp in Marine Areas 10 and 11.
  • Practice physical distancing. Did you know the length of a fishing pole typically ranges from 6-12 feet? While fishing on a pier or bank, find a spot that is at least 6 feet away from someone not in your family or household. If the area looks too crowded, try somewhere else.
  • Fish alone or with your family or household. For some, fishing is a way to relax alone while enjoying nature. For others, fishing is a family tradition. During this time, only immediate family and household members are allowed in fishing groups and on boats.
  • Pack some protective gear. Bring your own water, soap, and hand sanitizer with you as well as toilet paper, and masks or bandanas. Take back any garbage with you, including disposable gloves and masks.
  • Wear a life jacket while boating. Children should wear life jackets even while on docks. For guidance on choosing a life jacket that fits correctly, check out this U.S. Coast Guard’s resource, How to Choose the Right Life Jacket.

Guidance for Choosing Safe Seafood to Catch and Eat

  • Make fish a part of your healthy diet. Many places in King County have safe and nutritious seafood to eat, such as rainbow trout and salmon. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week as part of a healthy diet. Fish is packed with protein, vitamins, and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.
  • Be aware of fish consumption advisories. Unfortunately, some local waters are polluted with toxic chemicals (like mercury and PCBs). The Washington Department of Health issues advice about eating fish, shellfish or crab from specific waterbodies when chemicals found in certain species may harm your health. We summarized the local advisories in our Go Fishing in King County: Seafood Safe to Catch and Eat Guide (available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Khmer).
  • Moms and children, pay close attention. These advisories are particularly important for women who are pregnant or nursing, children under the age of six and people who plan to have children. Toxic chemicals can harm unborn babies, infants and young children the most – impacting their memory, attention, motor skills and language development.

Originally published on May 7, 2020.