At a special meeting in which the majority attended by phone, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission unanimously approved a week of free fishing in a bid to fight coronavirus blues.
In a 7-0 vote Thursday, the commission approved a minute order for a no-license period from March 21-29. More than half the members attended by phone, out of expediency and as a social distancing precaution, and hopes were expressed that waiving fishing license and trout permits will serve as a distraction and ease anxiety as the state grapples with the pandemic.
“We know that spending time outdoors is great for mental and physical health and there’s no better time to implement that than right now,” AGFC Director Pat Fitts said.
Arkansas has extended school closures until April 17 while bars and restaurants remain mostly shuttered and sporting events are postponed or canceled. Commission members agreed that the week would offer Arkansans something constructive to do and, hopefully, encourage people, especially the young, to take up the sport and become license buyers of the future.
“I hope we see a bunch of people saying, ‘Dad, Grandad, Mom, Grandma, this is fun. Let’s do this again,’ ” Chairman Ken Reeves said by phone. “And they become lifetime fishermen.”
In a brief question period before the roll call vote, Vice Chairman Andrew Parker asked about a potential financial hit from license sales lost.
Fitts noted the proposed week, coinciding traditionally with spring break, has historically meant a spike in revenues. But all present agreed waiving licenses was a prudent and positive step.
“I think operating off of historic data would not apply today considering the environment we find ourselves in,” Fitts said. “I do think it would be timely and I think our financial impact would be minimal.”