The Wyoming Game and Fish Department reinstated the sale of fishing licenses for nonresident anglers as of May 9.
Prior to this date, the governor had issued a moratorium on single and multiple-day licenses for anglers who are visiting or still have not lived in Wyoming the full year to qualify as a resident, a requirement that has been in the fishing and hunting regulations for at least 40 years that I know about. Annual nonresident angler fishing licenses were not part of the moratorium.
Now that anglers from other states can purchase a license to fish, it did not take long before those anglers began to arrive in droves at the more popular spring nonresident fishing destination areas such as the North Platte’s Miracle Mile, Fremont Canyon and the North Platte below Alcova all the way into the town of Casper.
My buddies who own outfitting and guide operations there have taken a big financial hit due to the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the state of Wyoming because March through June is their busiest time of year.
The crowds were also noticeable on the Wind-Bighorn River below Boysen Dam to the town of Thermopolis. Drift boats and rafts dotted the Bighorn River at the Wedding of the Waters river access. Prior to the reopening of Wyoming to travelers, this river had nothing but locals on it, which meant there was plenty of room for everyone to enjoy this popular tailwater.
Lesser traffic also meant the trout were given a break from the usually busy river in the spring months. News travels fast when the social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter light up with the excitement about Wyoming rivers opening and licenses being available again.
Cody saw a surge in the increase in non-local fishermen, too, as boats from out of state came to fish Buffalo Bill for the trout, mackinaw (lake trout) and spring walleye action. License plates from New York to California and every state in between were seen driving up the North Fork of the Shoshone.
Out-of-state vehicles were also scattered at various other river fisheries in Park County such as the South Fork of the Shoshone, Greybull, Wood, Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone and the lower Shoshone. The always popular spring fishery at East Newton Lake and Luce Reservoir had plenty of nonresidents competing with local anglers for parking space Sunday. I am sure the numbers will increase as Yellowstone Park’s fishing season opens the end of May.
While anglers are excited about the chance to get outdoors and enjoy the fishing opportunities, we all need to realize the spread and possible infection of COVID-19 does not stop because fishing licenses are once again available for purchase.
Not just anglers, but everyone who has the desire to be outdoors and recreating with friends and family must still respect the space of others and to practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently or using disinfectant and wearing masks where required to keep Wyoming and the town of Cody open and healthy as virus-related restrictions are eased.
If everyone continues to do their part in preventing the spread, the faster we can put all the trauma and stress from being locked up behind us. That being said, I hope your rod is bent and your reel is singing for the rest of May and on through the summer.