Fishing license sales up, GF&P says COVID-19 may be the reason

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Remember those peaceful summers just fishing? Maybe not, because with swimming pools, laser tag, arcades; there’s just so much more to do now. Well, there was. COVID-19 has changed where we can go and what we can do this summer. It’s why so many of us are returning to the simpler ways of life. That is having a big economic effect on the state and local bait shops.

We’ve had to let go of a lot of things that make us happy. Most of us have had it up to the gills with this year. Whenever we catch a break or a fish, it’s a good day.

“I’ve caught six of them,” Elijah Skillbred said.

13-year-old twins Elijah and Elyse Skillbred share a lot, but their latest bond is over fishing.

“It’s just fun and easy to do,” Elijah said.

“Mostly because my brother and his friends did it. So, I just came along with them,” Elijah said.

It’s the perfect summer activity of 2020.

“Everything else is closed,” Elijah said.

That is helping people open up to fishing.

“We’ve gone through a lot of bait and we’ve gone through a lot of licenses,” Matt Staab, owner of Northview Bait and Tackle, said.

Matt Staab says 2020 has been his busiest year yet, and sold more licenses in June than any other year here.

“It was crazy. We had more non-residents, more residents, more people we just never see all went fishing, because what else was there to do but go fishing?” Staab said.

Statewide, fishing license numbers are up.

“The fishing numbers are huge. Back in June, we had sold an additional 17,000 licenses at that time as the same time as last year. Lots of folks interested in getting outdoors. It’s always a safer option than being in a crowded room someplace.” Emmett Keyser, regional supervisor for SESD Division of Wildlife, said.

The great outdoors is a popular place. Campsites and state park and recreation areas have been busier so far in 2020 than in 2019, according to data from the South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department.

In a time when COVID-19 is tearing many Americans apart, Amy Skillbred is happy to see her twins bonding.

“Hopefully this is something they can even continue when they start school,” Amy said.

Even though it’s not always a picture perfect day at the lake…

Elyse: Get your pole out of the water.
Elijah: You keep your pole out of the water.

Hopefully spending time together fishing is a memory Elijah and Elyse will never let go of.

“And you can have fun waiting around to catch a fish,” Elyse said.

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