Pandemic seems to have coaxed more folks into the outdoors in West Virginia

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Despite the Covid 19 pandemic and two months in which nobody had to buy a fishing license in West Virginia, the Division of Natural Resources license sales have actually improved in 2020.

Fishing license sales for 2019 hit an all time high and West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Director Steve McDaniel noted they were outpacing the 2019 sales in March when the pandemic hit.

“The Governor decided to give folks in West Virginia the opportunity, since they were home, to go out and fish.” McDaniel said.

License requirements for in-state residents were suspended during the month of April. The free fishing was reinstated a week into the month of May. However, in June, when the free period ended, McDaniel said a lot of people decided to go ahead and make the purchase.

“We rebounded in June and I would like to think from the Governor’s directive we got literally thousands of people out onto the streams who had never been there before,” he said.

During the brief period in May before the Governor extended the free fishing period, McDaniel said the agency sold 4,500 license and 2,457 of those purchasers did not buy a fishing license the year before.

“Over half of those folks who bought a license hadn’t bought them before and they went out and bought it because they were reintroduced to the waters in West Virginia,” he said.

But the real surprise for the DNR came in June. The month saw a 43 percent increase in fishing license sales over June 2019 which was a banner year. McDaniel continued to credited the sales jump to people having an opportunity to experience the outdoors. Youth sports, concerts, theaters most gatherings large and small and most holidays were all cancelled during those weeks. The only place people could go for any recreation and stay socially distant, was a stream or lake to do some fishing. The exposure apparently worked.

“People had a great time. They were fishing, practicing social distancing, and they enjoyed themselves,” said McDaniel.

Governor Jim Justice was quick point out the jump in sales during a press conference this week.

“Over 50 percent of all fishing license sales this year have been from new, first-time license holders,”  Justice said. “Now, what does that tell you? It tells you that when we did the program to let people go fishing for free, a lot of people went and they had a great time and now they’re buying licenses.”

Last week, the Governor also announced  West Virginia State Parks had seen a 227 percent increase in online reservations from West Virginia residents in June 2020 compared to the previous year as a result of the state’s ongoing WVSTRONG Discount.

“I’m just tickled to death that people are getting out and enjoying the great outdoors of this state because it is absolutely magnificent,” Gov. Justice said. “Go fishing, go hunting, go walking, go hiking, go biking. This state abounds in beauty like you can’t fathom.”

On-line license sales had an increase of 96 percent and lifetime license sales increased by 37 percent during the month of June. McDaniel hoped the trend continued into the month of July and he held great hope for the hunting season as well.

“In June, when there’s no hunting season, we actually had an increase in hunting license sales—not the combo license, but just hunting license. I think it’s a trend and I think people are being reintroduced to the outdoors and we have people who are finding they really enjoy it,” he said.

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