Is It Safe To Go Boating And Fishing During COVID-19?

By Debbie Hanson

May 19, 2020

Tips for fishing during COVID-19. Guidelines when participating in outdoor activities, like fishing and boating, staying safe outdoors during coronavirus

In most states, if you follow social distancing guidelines and safety tips for going outside, you can still get out to enjoy time on the water. While it's true that some state and national parks may not be open yet or may have certain restrictions in place, you can find places to fish or boat that are close to home.

Be safe and smart by following these guidelines for boating and fishing during COVID-19.

  • Most importantly, don't go out if you are sick. If you are feeling unwell, stay home and self-isolate. If you have symptoms of any illness, COVID-19 or any other illness, you should not be in public or participating in outdoor activities.
  • When boating, refrain from rafting up or tying watercraft together and allowing people to pass from boat to boat.
  • Limit the number of people on board your vessel or at your fishing spot. When participating in fishing or boating in Florida, for example, group sizes may not exceed ten people. In other words, if you arrive at a boat ramp or fishing spot where you see a crowd, leave and find another place to boat or fish.
  • Thoroughly sanitize or wash your hands after fueling your boat. When washing your hands, use soap and scrub them for at least 20 seconds.
  • Practice social distancing while engaging in outdoor activities by keeping at least six feet of distance between yourself and others. You can measure this distance is by using your fishing rod (depending on the type of fishing rod, the length typically ranges from 6-12 feet). Hold the rod straight out in front you, and if you can turn around in a complete circle without hitting anyone, you are at a safe distance. Going outside safely means following the social distancing guidelines set forth by the CDC.
  • Bring and use your own gear (rod and reels, bait, lures, pliers, and other tackle) when fishing during COVID-19. Sanitize rod and reel handles with mild soap and water before and after use.
  • Avoid sharing food, drinks, rafts, and sunscreen lotions. Bring your own food, drinks, rafts, and personal care products (sunscreen lotions, lip sunscreen or lip balm, brushes, combs, hand sanitizers, etc.).
  • Wash hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol when soap and water are not available. Bring along a travel-size hand sanitizer for boating and fishing safety during COVID-19.
  • Fishing face masks or neck gaiters that have been designed for sun protection have not been scientifically proven by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to prevent you from contracting a virus/disease/illness or passing a virus/disease/illness to someone else. While wearing any cloth face covering may help to slow the spread of the virus, don't let a cloth face mask give you a false sense of protection. Continue to follow the guidelines on social distancing previously set forth by the CDC. If you do wear a fishing face mask or neck gaiter, carefully remove it by putting your clean fingers under the neckline and lifting up from the bottom to top over your head.
    When boating or fishing during COVID-19, don't venture off on long-distance trips. If you plan on going outdoors during coronavirus, it's not the time to explore unfamiliar areas or waterways. If you happen to get injured or have an emergency, you may need medical services, which would cause additional strain on healthcare or emergency workers who are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Stay close to home by fishing in a nearby pond or lake if there aren't groups or crowds. Use this time as an opportunity to explore small waterways in your neighborhood that you may have previously overlooked. Local ponds and lakes can be great places to catch species like catfish, bluegill, bass, and sunfish. Just don't go into other neighborhoods for outdoor recreation because it can increase the risk of virus spread.

Be sure to check the most recent state agency COVID-19 updates regarding fishing and boating related activities before heading out on the water.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.