Fishing can be an escape from COVID-mania

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
LAKE OKEECHOBEE — Marquise Williams shared this photo on March 22 on the Lake Okeechobee Crappie Club page on Facebook. In addition to providing relaxation, crappie fishing also helps feed the family.

OKEECHOBEE — If your eyes are fried from reading about coverage of COVID-19 and the stress of searching stores for a roll of toilet paper has you down, there’s scientific research that says a fishing trip might be the relief you need.

A study published by researchers from the University of New Hampshire, Indiana University and Clemson University in the Community Mental Health Journal in March 2017 showed that fishing helped decrease symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, perceived stress and functional impairment in veterans with combat-related disabilities.

You’ll be able to gain those benefits without breaking any CDC guidelines for social distancing, too. You’ll get to stay home from work, avoid large crowds and might even get to skip the grocery store if you’re lucky and the fish are biting.

“Fishing to me is 50% catching fish and 50% getting away from the troubles of life,” said Derrick Moore of Jiganomics Outdoors. “Whether you’re fishing from the bank or doing 50 mph across our beautiful Lake Okeechobee, few things matter at the point in time. When the fish are biting and you’re catching them back to back, there is nothing better to take your mind off your everyday worries, especially at a time like this. Not to mention you can catch dinner for your family while doing it.”

While the public (salt water) boat ramps were closed in Palm Beach County on March 23, there are no plans to close the boat ramps in Okeechobee, Hendry or Glades. Palm Beach officials said the measure was necessary in response to people gathering in large groups on the sandbars, Intracoastal lands and waterways without observing social distancing.

“I don’t see a reason to close our boat ramps,” said County Administrator Robbie Chartier at the March 23 BOCC meeting. “On the coast they closed the saltwater boat ramps. The reason was they were congregating on the sandbars. The only reason the county boat ramps would be closed would be because of low water levels.”

She added that there are still some freshwater access ramps open on the coast.

“Lake Okeechobee is one of the best fisheries in the world,” Mr. Moore added. “Early in the year the crappie move into the shallow parts of the lake in vegetation. This hold true for the entire lake, whether you are fishing the south end near Pahokee, the west side near Lakeport, north side in Okeechobee, and the east side near Port Mayaca. You can find some nice quality and quantity when jigging in the vegetation and using minnows around the outside edges. A nice long light rod and small reel is ideal catching crappie on Okeechobee and some jigs that can be purchased from any bait and tackle store around the lake.”

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