PHOENIX – Tom Zemites hasn’t let the COVID-19 pandemic stop him from pursuing his hobby – fishing.

“I’ve probably fished more than five times,” the Chandler resident said. “I fished at Fool Hollow up by Show Low a couple times, fished Willow Springs twice. And then, we’ve fished right over here at ASU Research Park, just for entertainment in the evening.”

The Arizona Game & Fish Department, which oversees the state’s multimillion-dollar recreational fishing industry, recently released a video explaining how anglers can stay safe on the water during the pandemic.

The video opens with a recommendation to stay home if you exhibit any COVID 19 symptoms, such as a cough or fever, and it advises following all Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines regarding face coverings.

Go early in the morning or late in the day to avoid busier times, the department says, and it advises against fishing with anyone who’s not a member of your household.

As long as you follow the guidelines in the video, wetting a line is safe, said Andy Clark, the department’s assistant aquatic wildlife branch chief of sportfish management.

“The most basic guidelines to follow would be just maintain that six-feet distancing,” Clark said.

If you find yourself in a crowd, he said, maintain good hygiene and avoid touching your face.

Clark also stressed the importance of being cautious at the launch ramps if you plan to go boating. This, too, involves keeping your hands clean and your mouth and nose covered.

Fishing licenses are available online, so there’s no need to put yourself at risk by buying one in person. The guidelines also recommend not sharing gear with others.

“If you social distance, it’s absolutely safe,” said Bertram Jacobs, who specializes in virology at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute. “It’s in fact much safer outdoors than indoors. Indoors, I think, is the place that most people worry about. Outdoors, there’s lots of air circulation.”

Air circulation moves the tiny droplets that can spread the disease away from other people, Jacobs said. Sunlight also inactivates viruses, he said, and that combined with good air circulation makes fishing very safe.

Zemites fishes on a boat, so he already socially distances, but he doesn’t wear a mask. He says he isn’t worried about contracting COVID-19. For him, fishing isn’t necessarily about catching fish.

“It’s kind of like golfing, for me, you know? It doesn’t matter what my golf score is, it doesn’t matter how many fish I catch. It’s just nice to be out on the lake and enjoy the outdoors.”

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