HELENA — Fishing access sites and state parks have seen a significant increase in usage as people seek outdoor recreation in the past month.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) Spokesperson Greg Lemon says the number of people using FWP fishing sites is more like what they see in summer rather than early spring.
“As regular life has become more constricted, there’s been an increase in use at almost all of our sites,” said Lemon. “There’s more people fishing, more people walking and more people taking advantage of our sites.”
Lemon said the increase in use played a big role in the department closing group-use and overnight camping at FWP managed sites.
Bannack State Park is temporarily closed given the nature of the park makes it next to impossible to adhere to social distancing directives and still allow tours.
Most other FWP sites are open, but people are asked to follow all social distancing guidelines and evaluate how busy a site is before choosing to recreate there.
Lemon also encourages people to recreate at different times than usual to help limit the number of people at any given site.
“My wife and I like to get out, and what we’ve been doing is going earlier in the mornings,” explained Lemon. “Recreating at times you normally wouldn’t can help people avoid crowds and the peak times of the day.”
Lemon also noted fishing can be a great way to socially distance yourself, and there are some great opportunities this time of year t before spring run off begins.
There are more than 300 FWP fishing access sites across the state, and people can get their licenses online.
Fishing piers are closed to the general public for COVID-19 health concerns. However, individuals with disabilities can still use the piers, and FWP asks the public to leave the fishing piers available to those who wouldn't have fishing opportunities otherwise.
“It’s really important for those with disabilities that if they need to get out and get a little fresh air, sunshine and enjoy the outdoors that they have a place that’s safe for them to go,” said Lemon.
FWP also strongly encouraged anyone recreating in bear country to have bear spray.
People need to take extra precautions now that bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food.
Proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for reducing the severity of a bear attack and fending off threatening or attacking bears.