CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Although Covid caused a lot of problems and created major setbacks in a lot of areas, the pandemic actually has had the opposite effect on outdoors pursuits. Here in West Virginia and even nationally, the wildlife resources agencies report an increase in the sales of hunting and fishing license for both 2020 and 2021.
“It was a bit of an uptick in license sales which is a positive and indicating an interest in folks getting outdoors,” said Paul Johansen, Chief of the Wildlife Section of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
During 2020, when the pandemic first manifested itself, people were left with very little to do. Indoor gatherings were largely forbidden and social distancing was recommended. There are few place better for social distancing than a stream bank or a tree stand. Thousands of people began to make that discovery and renewed that interest in 2021.
“We saw renewed interest in folks getting outside and perhaps they felt a little safer. We saw an uptick in both hunting and angling here in West Virginia,” Johansen said.
The sharp rise in hunting and fishing license sales and the continued renewal of those license for 2021 is one of the stories of the year in West Virginia’s outdoors. DNR officials are hoping those renewals will continue for 2022.
The year also saw the certification of a new state record buck. Jody Dalton killed the massive bruiser in Wyoming County during the 2020 hunting season. The required drying period meant it wasn’t certified until January 2021. It was officially scored with a gross score of 195 0/8ths. There were 3 6/8ths in deductions for a final score of 191 2/8ths.
“That one sticker was over an inch. I’ve never seen one that symmetrical,” Dalton told MetroNews. “He’s a perfect deer.”
West Virginia saw four new fish records in 2021. John Gibson of Poca, West Virginia caught the new state record for drum while catfishing on the Kanawha River. His fish set the new record for weight at 27.88 pounds.
Days later Chase Gibson, no relation to John, of Mount Clare, W.Va. caught a new state record musky while fishing at Burnsville Lake. The massive musky he caught in May stretched the tape measure to 54 1/16th inches, which beat the old state record for length. At 39.64 pounds, it remained shy of the weight record.
In April, Ethan Moss of Gallipolis, Ohio was planning to do some catfishing on the Ohio River. Ahead of that plan, he was fishing for bait in the tailwaters of the Robert C. Byrd Lock and Dam and hooked into a new state record skipjack. It set the new record for weight at 3.1 pounds and for length at 19.21 inches.
The final fish record was another one for the blue catfish. The blue cat record seems to be broken fairly regularly. The fish keep on flourishing and growing larger after their successful reintroduction. Justin Goode of Cheshire, OH, caught a 50.15-inch, 54.84-pound blue catfish in the R.C. Byrd Tailwaters near Pt. Pleasant. The fish set the new record for length, but the weight record is intact, but not likely for very long.
We said goodbye to some well known outdoor figures in 2021. Longtime DNR Colonel Jerry Jenkins and Assistant Chief for Game at the DNR Gary Foster retired. Also hanging it up in 2021, longtime outdoor writer for the Charleston Gazette Mail and previously the Daily Mail, John McCoy.
There was a major change in the body which oversees hunting and fishing regulations in the state. The Legislature approved the changes for the makeup and selection of members of the Natural Resources Commission.
I’m grateful for all of you who listen in on Saturday morning to West Virginia Outdoors and read coverage of my stories here on the website or follow along on social media. I look forward to telling more tales from the woods and waters of West Virginia during 2022.