Officials urge social distancing ahead of Wisconsin’s game fishing season opener

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MILWAUKEE -- With so many forced to stay inside and beautiful weather on tap, Saturday's game fishing season opener is expected to draw thousands of anglers out to fish. But this year's opener feels a little different in the heart of a pandemic.

Tommie White

Tommie White

At A&C Live Bait Inc. on Milwaukee's east side, the already small store would normally be full on the eve of the game finishing opener. Instead the sign outside says it all -- two customers at a time.

"It would be crowded. There would be people standing in line, inside of the store, packed," said the shop's owner, Tommie White.

However, it isn't stopping anglers from getting what they need.

"There's been a steady stream of people purchasing licenses, which means there's gonna be a lot of people out on the water tomorrow," White said.

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Secretary Preston Cole says this is not a time to forget about social distancing. Wisconsin has 15,000 lakes and more than 1,000 miles of rivers and shoreline.

Preston Cole

With more than one million licenses issued, Cole says he wants anglers to limit their travel.

"We would ask them to stay close to their own homes and fish within the boundaries of their own communities," Cole said.

In addition, DNR wardens will be out ensuring people are abiding by social distancing, have the proper licenses -- and say they're willing to take action if necessary.

Matt O'Brien

"If we have the wrong facts where someone is out there and is blatantly causing public health concerns, we're gonna address that with our criminal justice partners," Matt O'Brien, Wisconsin DNR conservation warden, said.

In most cases, the DNR said it hasn't reached that threshold and hopes the outdoors can provide a welcome breath of fresh air to many.

Secretary Cole said Wisconsin ranks third in the nation for the number of licenses sold to out-of-state residents. He's asking those people to also fish closer to home.

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