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Pandemic lures more people to fishing; Michigan license sales up 32%

State officials saw a spike in the sale of hunting licenses last year; they say a greater appreciation for the outdoors is also getting people hooked on fishing.

ROCKFORD, Mich. — A trend towards increased outdoor activity amid the pandemic has carried over to fishing, with more people getting hooked.

“We are getting the feeling that a lot of people have come to enjoy the outdoors, or forgot that they used to enjoy it,’’ said Lt. Gerald Thayer of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. 

The state through April 22 has sold more than 333,500 fishing licenses for 2021, which represents a 32% increase over the same period last year.

The last Saturday in April marks the traditional trout opener in Michigan; sending legions to rivers and streams statewide.

“It’s a really good opportunity to get folks outdoors to enjoy the natural resources,’’ Thayer said.

The trout opener also brings a spike in activity at businesses like Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company in Kent County’s Algoma Township.

“We have certainly had a lot of phone calls and inquiries,’’ owner Glen Blackwood said. “We’ve had people here that are going to the U.P. We had a group in here that are having their trout camp on the Clam River near Cadillac.’’

Other popular venues include the Au Sable River, the Manistee River and the Pere Marquette River. 

“Of course, we have people fishing locally here on the Rogue River in Rockford,’’ Blackwood said. “Fish are starting to look up and get aggressive and hungry, so it should be a good weekend on the stream.’’

Michigan and other states have seen a surge in people reconnecting with hunting and fishing as the pandemic stretches on.

“Absolutely. Ever since the pandemic hit, a lot of people came home from work because their place of work was shut down temporarily, they decided let’s go hunting and fishing,’’ Thayer said. “It’s carried on.’’

On a recent afternoon at Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company, a couple came in looking for pointers on how to ease into the art of fly fishing.

Blackwood says it is heartening to see people reconnect with the great outdoors. Providing sound advice and reliable equipment, he says, will keep them coming back.

A successful morning on the river doesn’t hurt, either.

“We succeed when people are successful, so we want everybody to go out and put a bend in the rod,’’ Blackwood said.

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