Are fishing numbers on the rise during COVID-19 pandemic?

Some states are seeing an increase of fishing license sales due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is good news since such license sales had been decreasing across the country the past few years.

There certainly seems to be an increase in anglers when I’ve got out to fish. An added plus is seeing so many youngsters and young adults dotting the shores of a lake, reservoir or river.

Trying to ascertain if Ohio is among those seeing an increase of anglers and license sales is difficult. There’s a good reason for that.

Several changes to the license sales were made in the state last year that are most likely impacting the numbers this spring.

“We switched from a license year that began on March 1 for all licenses to fishing licenses that are valid for a full year from the date of purchase. This changes the timing of when anglers are renewing their licenses,” said Meredith Gilbert, communications specialist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife (DOW).

“In addition, we also added in multiyear and lifetime license options meaning some anglers do not need to purchase a license this year. And, as always, the spring weather plays a major factor in license sales,” she added.

Factually, fishing license sales numbers have decreased when one considers the options one has to purchase a license. However, that doesn’t mean less people are fishing. With the multiyear and lifetimes licenses added in, there quite possibly are more people fishing.

Gilbert added an interesting footnote.

“We have seen a slight increase in youth turkey permits, likely due to more opportunity to get out during the weekdays,” she said.

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As they had throughout the southern season of the wild turkey season, Lima area hunters fared much better than their counterparts in other areas of the state. The season continues until May 31 in the northeast zone (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Trumbull counties).

Locally, hunters checked in 487 wild turkeys through May 17 compared to 461 checked during the same period in 2019 season. Statewide hunters checked in 15,718 wild turkeys through May 1 while hunters harvested 17,619 wild turkeys during the same time frame in 2019.

Four of the nine local counties showed an increase over a year ago while three were down just slightly and two had the same number as in 2019..

Auglaize County had the largest increase with 50 checked this year compared to 37 checked during the same period last year. The other three counties showing an increase with numbers from this year compared to numbers in 2019 in parenthesis were: Hancock 41 (33), Hardin 94 (87) and Mercer 26 (16).

On the down side, 104 turkeys were checked in Logan County compared to 106 a year ago while 50 were checked in Putnam County compared to 59 a year ago and a total of 35 were checked in compared 36 in 2019.

Allen and Van Wert each had the same number of turkeys checked in both years. Allen had 69 while Van Wert had 18.

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Since most anglers like to eat many of the fish they catch, the DOW reminds them of the Ohio sport fish consumption advisory.

To protect the health of anyone who eats Ohio-caught fish, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) annually offer an advisory for how often these fish can be safely eaten.

Most Ohio fish are safe to eat for at least one meal per week. The advisory for the one meal per week protects sensitive populations. Among these are women of child bearing age and children under age 15.

The advisory suggests two meals per week for some of the best tasting species. These include yellow perch and sunfish (bluegill, green, longear and redear). Most other sportfish are listed under the one meal per week advisory.

Some fish fall under the one meal per month like flathead catfish and northern pike over 23 inches, and steelhead trout from Lake Erie and its tributaries.

There are some that are recommended not to eat at all because of higher levels of contaminants in certain waters. None of these are listed in the Lima area.

You can find out more about this on the OhioDepartment of Health’s website at

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

Al Smith is a freelance outdoor writer. You may contact him at and follow him on Twitter @alsmithFL

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