Use of motorboats will have to wait until May in Michigan.
Now the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is saying the Governor's stay-at-home orders restrict the use of certain types of watercraft. The news comes only a few weeks after the DNR shut down all commercial guide and charter fishing services as "non-essential."
The DNR said in a social media post that the you can still hit the water, but only in a human-powered kayak, canoe or sailboat. All motorboats, jet skis and other watercraft are off-limits until April 30 when the current stay-at-home orders are set to expire. The DNR decided to clear things up because many residents were confused by the rules regarding exceptions for outdoor recreation.
They said that the ruling wasn't because they felt people could contract the virus while out in their boats. Instead, the ruling is more about limiting the spread of the disease during travels to and from the lake. And potential interactions with others that boaters and fishermen might have along the way.
"The DNR has received many reports about the heavy use of boat launches across the state and the subsequent congregation of people at these launches in violation of social distancing requirements and in a manner that threatens public health," the post reads. "In addition, people who use motorized watercraft typically have to procure secondary services for their craft, such as parts and gasoline, that could unnecessarily increase contact with others and spread disease."
The DNR says outdoor recreation, including fishing, is allowed while the stay-at-home orders are in effect. However, they are also encouraging people to not wander far from home when partaking in these activities.
"As an additional reminder, any outdoor activity permitted under the order must be done in a manner consistent with social distancing and individuals should use only their own equipment when boating to prevent the transmission of the virus through the touching of shared surfaces," the statement reads.
Obviously, the news was not met well by many Michigan residents who are aching to go out and fish with the spring weather starting to improve. The post garnered thousands of angry comments over the weekend.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Michigan is one of the worst states in the U.S. for cases of the disease right now. They had 24,638 cases of coronavirus as of this writing.
In a April 14 update to this story, it seems the Michigan DNR was not joking when they said no boating. Mlive.com reports that 323 warnings were handed out over the weekend. Additionally, five citations were also given out, although the DNR says they are trying to reserve that action for people who refuse to cooperate with orders.
"Our approach to enforcement from the beginning of this executive order is to seek voluntary compliance from people and that's been working very well," DNR public information officer Ed Golder told Mlive.
He also told the news organization that because the news broke late in the week, many people were unaware of the sudden rule change. Golder said officers don't want to ticket people unnecessarily. He said most complied once they learned what was going on. Violators could get a $500 fine and 90 days in jail under the DNR's maximum penalties for citations.
"We appreciate their compliance and understanding. It really is the governor's intent to protect public safety as much as possible and that's our mission too," Golder told the publication.