More become outdoor fans during pandemic

By Al Smith - Guest Columnist

It’s always great to get outdoors when you can. And more people are discovering that during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A recent survey by Everest indicates people are staying active while enjoying the outdoors whether it is by biking or hiking, fishing or hunting, sport shooting or archery or simply bird watching. And they are spending money, too.

The enjoyment part comes from the fact 73 percent of those polled said these outdoor activities have been therapeutic for them.

“Spending time in the great outdoors not only restores our soul and mental health, but it’s also a way to form lifelong bonds with friends and family,” states Bill Voss, CEO/Founder of “Generations of families have created lasting memories of sitting around a campfire together telling stories, catching that first fish or listening to the woods come alive in the mornings while a father and son sit in a tree stand. In times such as this, it’s important to feel connected to others and have a sense of belonging.”

When it comes to spending money, respondents said they are investing in camping (37 percent), fishing (35 percent) and hiking (24 percent). The poll showed people are spending an average of $126 on various activities.

The top five outdoor activities invested in during the quarantine are: camping 37%, fishing 35%, hiking 24%, sport shooting 24%, cycling 23% and hunting 23%. Archery ranked in the top 10 at 16%.

There’s still time to enjoy getting out and doing some of the things mentioned in this survey.

I’m one of those guys who fishes until ice up if I can. The forecast calls for some nice weather this week so I’ll be out in the boat with a few fly rods or ultra light rods hoping for some more nice catches of bluegills and the occasional crappie at one of my favorite fishing sites.

I have been catching some dandy bluegills and on one trip of the dozen I landed on a wiggler fly, four were more than 9 inches long and one was more than 10 inches. The others were in the 7 1/2- to 8 1/2-inch range.

I’ve caught them anywhere from a foot to 6-feet deep. I keep an eye on my electronics to see where they may be. When the temperature is in the 50s and cloudy, I dress a bit warmer. Some sun and the 50s is appreciated now. Predicted temps in the 60s this week are more than welcome.

I haven’t been alone in being successful. While interviewing Dick Shaffer, the pro basser from Rockford on his fishing in the recent Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) regional on the Mississippi River, he told me he couldn’t talk long because he and his buddy had slayed the crappies and got some nice bluegills while fishing Indian Lake. He also was hoping to get out for some more fishing fun.

My wife and I have also enjoyed spotting birds at a local lake and along the Maumee River by Independence State Dam Park.

One day we saw a pair of bald eagles sitting near each other in the same tree, about 100 yards from an eagles’ nest. Blue herons are still around and so are dozens of cormorants.

Other birds we’ve seen include bluebirds, flickers, black-capped chickadees, tufted titmouse, least flycatcher, gold-crowned kinglet, junco, nuthatches, sparrows, woodpeckers and some ducks, including mallards and ruddy ducks. We’ve also seen popular birds like cardinals, bluejays and robins.

People should be seeing more ducks, according to Kelly Schott, wildlife communications specialist at Magee Marsh Wildlife area.

“Duck migration should continue to build through mid-November. The first split for the Lake Erie zone ended this passed Sunday. There were a variety of ducks here at Pickerel Creek throughout the season – blue and green-winged teal, gadwall, mallards, pintail, wigeon and a few early divers like ruddy ducks and ring necks. Although there was good variety I don’t think we have reached peak numbers. That usually happens in the first or second week of November,” she said.

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In the nearly 40 years that I have been writing an outdoor column, I keep hearing the same refrains from anglers and hunters when it comes to the Division of Wildlife (DOW). I heard a familiar “fish story” on one of the recent days I was fly fishing a favorite lake.

The scenario goes the DOW came in, used a shocker boat on the lake and kept a horde of large bass. It continues with the wildlife agency taking the bass to some other body of water — this time the Lima reservoirs. Over the years, it’s been other bodies of water.

If one realizes that it is illegal to move fish from one body of water to another you should know a state agency would not do that. But people believe what they want to believe.

Mike Wilkerson, fish management supervisor of Wildlife District Two, emphatically stated, “The rumor about Wildlife removing bass, or any fish, for stocking in other reservoirs is completely false. We do however, keep a few fish for aging purposes. These fish are sacrificed so we can remove their otolith (the ear bone) to determine the age of these fish. The number sacrificed is very low in relation to the total population, and we only do this one or two times in a six-year period. This information is extremely important for us in determining what management options we have.”

He added, “This is an old rumor that I have heard for the past 20 years and it is not unique to (the lake I was fishing). When we are in Lima, anglers say they hear the same thing about Wildlife removing fish from those lakes for stocking elsewhere. All of our stocked fish are raised in our hatchery system, or occasionally bought from private dealers.”

By Al Smith

Guest Columnist

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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