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Fishing for answers: With trout season coming, retailers adjusting

TYRONE — Last week, at Ace Hardware’s Tyrone location, a male customer and the clerk discussed their plans for the upcoming fishing season as if nothing were out of the ordinary.

The store was open for business, and there were a few people in line behind the pair to get their fishing licenses.

But that’s not the case everywhere, and due to the coronavirus, the store is now just taking orders on the phone or at the door.

Unkel Joe’s Woodshed in Altoona has a sign posted on its door that reads, “closed due to COVID-19 PA state shutdown. We will see you soon. Be smart and be safe.”

Unkel Joe’s is doing business on its website www.ujwoodshed.com.

Other stores that offer outdoor supplies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Sportsman’s Warehouse are closed for walk-in customers but have curbside or online pickup available.

Doug Savino, a Tyrone native who won the Pennsylvania state championship at the B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional last year, orders his fishing supplies online and said he has not been impacted by the Pa. shutdown, yet.

“I’m rigging up the kids’ rods, and we’re going to Raystown today,” said Savino when reached last week. “Some states have closed lakes, but Raystown is still open.”

Some stores, like Bressler’s Food Mart & Sports in Tyrone, were open late last week and trying to decide if they fell under the mandate to stay open or close.

“I think people that like to fish are still going to continue to do so,” Owner Brian Bressler said. “I think even with all this going on, they say the best thing you can do is get out in the fresh air, so if you are alongside a stream with not a lot of other people, what’s it going to hurt?”

Along with bait and tackle, Bressler also sells fishing and hunting licenses, though he said sales have been slow this season.

“I haven’t sold a lot, yet,” Bressler said. “It’s surprising. Once the weather gets this nice, especially the way it has been this year, you’d think we’d be selling a lot more. But the big rush hasn’t really started yet.”

That might be because the first day of trout season, April 18, is still weeks away.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission announced March 16 that there would be a state-wide opening day of trout season this year unlike past years where it was different county by county.

According to the PFBC, this was done to limit large numbers of people from all over the state coming to the counties that opened early to fish.

Savino still wondered if the first day of trout would continue as normal, though the fishing industry was listed as a life-sustaining in Gov. Tom Wolf’s announcement last Thursday.

“If we are in our current situation where we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing, I don’t think they’ll have a trout opening day,” Savino said. “If you have ever seen the first day of trout, you can be elbow-to-elbow.”

In addition to a universal opening day announcement, the PFBC said fishermen can now purchase their license, launch permit or boat registration renewal using the FishBoatPA app digitally on a phone or on a computer through The Outdoor Shop (www.pa.wildlifelicense.com).

Buying a license online or at Walmart give fishermen options to replace some of the spots they may have gone to in the past.

Though none of the tournaments he’s signed up for have been canceled yet, Savino said he has friends who have been informed tournaments they were planning on entering have been called off.

But when it comes to recreational fishing with family, Savino saw no reason it couldn’t continue as he prepared to take his children on a fishing trip.

“I understand the social distancing thing, but if they want us to be outside and away from other people, I don’t know how much farther you can get away from people out on a lake if you have a boat,” Savino said. “It wouldn’t make any sense to stop that.”

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