COVID-19 Nebraska cases

Fishing provides calming escape from stress of life

Crappie fishing

Pictured are crappie caught using a flyrod on a private lake in Cass County.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another. We have been staying at home for the most part with trips pretty much only being made to the grocery store, gas station or nearby trail for exercise.

One activity though that has been very popular in Nebraska throughout this unprecedented time: Fishing. In fact, Nebraskans have been out in strong numbers wetting lines at local and regional waters — lakes, reservoirs, ponds, streams and rivers. Evidence of that is in fishing permit sales. They are up over last year and the three-year average. State park permit sales are also up.

On the national level, high interest in fishing is apparent. The Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation website,, has seen a 15% increase in traffic this past month. Organic online searches for fishing and how-to fish information in April dramatically rose, a whopping 350%. Searches for fishing permits are high, and a recent Harris Poll showed 24% of people with children under 18 were considering fishing more during the pandemic.

In this country, purchasing a state fishing permit and having the freedom to spend a day near the water means a great deal. Fishing is one of the more accessible outdoor activities where nearly anyone can easily be a participant. Whether it is trolling crankbaits for walleye in a public reservoir or using bobbers and crawlers for bluegills in a community pond, recreational fishing offers a welcome release from a long stay at home.

Give it some thought. Recreational fishing, done legally and safely, is great for mental health, stress relief, Vitamin D absorption, calorie burning, connecting with your family and creating lasting memories. Fishing also has a tangible reward: Catching your dinner.

Please know whether fishing by yourself or with the folks in your household, social/physical distancing from others and frequent hand washing are easily accomplished. Updates on COVID-19 and how it pertains to the Nebraska outdoor scene can be found here.

Daryl Bauer, Fisheries Biologist and Fisheries Outreach Program Manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, says that now is the time to go fishing. Bauer States: “I will always tell you that May and June are two of the best months of the year to fish open water in Nebraska.  It does not make any difference what species of fish you want to catch, what water bodies you want to fish, during May and June, “do not pass “GO”, do not collect $200 just GO FISH.”

Bauer reminds anglers that they will need to have a current, valid Nebraska fishing permit on their person while actively engaging in hook-and-line fishing and should check fishing regulations in advance of their trip. “Like normal, our fishing permit requirements and our fishing regulations remain in effect.”

Visit the Game and Parks website to acquire permits and read regulations, at By the way, basic information on how to get started in the lifestyle of fishing is also available on the Game and Parks website at this link.

Find top places to fish for various species in Nebraska on the website as well.

Some questions about fishing remain though: What does fishing really mean to people? Why are so many folks out casting lines?

Let us go deeper (no fishing pun intended).

A large part of fishing is the calming influence that comes with it. No, your brain does not go to sleep; any angler will tell you that if you are not thinking about what you are doing, you most likely are not catching any fish, right? However, fishing shares one similarity with good sleep, seriously. It takes the stresses of everyday life – the uncertainties, worries, responsibilities, etc. and pushes them right out of the cerebrum.

I will tell you there is just no room for those pressures in my brain when I am fishing. I’m concentrating on rigging my presentation, casting to a certain spot, working my lure or bait in the water, noting conditions, and watching the weather and wildlife, as well as honing in on the other things that go along with effective angling plus perhaps engaging in conversation with a relative, friend or co-worker while on the water.

Even more fulfilling is introducing or re-introducing a person in your household to the lifetime activity of fishing through the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Take ‘Em Fishing challenge. This fun, statewide challenge is one where anglers can win great prizes just by sharing their love of fishing with someone who has never fished or someone that has not fished in a while. To find out more information about it, go online.

Fishing, more than anything else takes a person out of a normal, everyday setting and fully places them in another, a natural one with space, even if it is just for a few hours. It is an actual, physical scenario, too, unlike trying to lose yourself in a book, movie, TV miniseries or reality show. Fishing is atmospheric and soothing. It is feeling the sun, wind, sand, rocks and water that are around an angler continually.

Here is something rather interesting.

In a study involving U.S. military combat veterans, researchers from the University of Southern Maine, the University of Utah, and the VA in Salt Lake City, found that participants had significant reductions in overall stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as well as improvements in sleep quality after participating in an angling retreat.

These Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans also had lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, for as long as three weeks after a weekend fishing trip. Researchers also noted that their patients slept better, expressed lower levels of depression and anxiety, experienced fewer symptoms of somatic stress or stress related to the body, and were far less likely to experience the feelings of guilt, hostility, fear, or sadness normally associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and horrific experiences. Many of the combat veterans who fished in the study commented that the sound of water lapping at the shore and the pull of a fishing line were enough to help drive some of their stress away.

Personally, I also think the feeling of unrestrained optimism in angling is something of priceless value. That unrestrained optimism translates to an insatiable belief that, at the next moment, with the next cast, I could land a big fish or that fish of a lifetime. I feel it every time I put a rod and reel in my hands.

Nothing brings on the sense of being alive and helps to rebuild and restore our mental reserves like a day on the water trying to catch a fish and interacting with a family member or friend in an aquatic environment.

Like the legendary columnist, Doug Larson, once said: “If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there’d be a shortage of fishing poles.”

In other news

LINCOLN — Six $1,000 scholarships are available to Nebraska schools starting up Trout in the Classroom, a science-based program that allows students to explore aquatic ecosystems, life cycles, water quality and the scientific process by raising trout from eggs.

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has been awarded a $300,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the Treehouse Classroom and Interactive Stream: Engaging Nebraskans in Conservation Education project.

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission is pleased to announce the continued reopening of several facilities, activities and amenities in state park and recreation areas across the state.

LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission important dates in July.

On this sunny day, Bryce Gerlach is visiting a timber-thinning project at Gilbert-Baker Wildlife Management Area in the northwest corner of the state. Gerlach, who is a forester funded by the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, likes what he sees.

Layne Bussey, Ron Bilstein and Bailey Legate pose with the paddlefish they harvested on Sunday below Gavins Point Dam in Yankton. Tuesday is the final day of the archery paddlefish season.

LINCOLN — The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission has been awarded a $75,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust for the Rainwater Basin Wetland Management project.

July outdoor calendar

LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission important dates in July.

July 1 – Select state park area service centers will reopen to the public for customer service, information and permit sales (

July 1 – Year-to-date reservation process returns for Nebraska state park area cabins, lodge rooms meeting rooms, group lodges, cabooses, pavilions, and picnic shelters

July 1 – Outdoor shooting range reopens, Wildcat Hills State Recreation Area, Gering

July 1 – Some limited educational and recreational programming at select state park areas returns

July 1 – Archery fishing of game fish is allowed statewide through Dec. 31

July 1 – Underwater spearfishing of game fish allowed in certain waters through Dec. 31 (See the 2020 Nebraska Fishing Guide at

July 1-14 – Paddlefish snagging permit application period

July 1-31 – Application period for Gifford Point Wildlife Management Area special access permits for deer hunting

July 3 – Results of the draw for deer, antelope and elk permits will be available on or before this date

July 3 – Final day to apply for Nebraska Super Tag and Combo lottery permits

July 4 – Most state park swimming pools, aquatic centers and the Platte River State Park spray park will reopen to the public. Check

July 4 – Eugene T. Mahoney State Park’s miniature golf and Owen Marina concessions and paddleboats at Mahoney and Platte River state parks reopens

July 6 – Reopening of Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln; Wildcat Hills Nature Center, Gering; Schramm Education Center, Gretna; Water Interpretive Center at Lake McConaughy, Ogallala; and Missouri National Recreational River Interpretive Center at Ponca State Park, Ponca

July 6 – Reopening of state historical park interpretive centers, except Buffalo Bill Ranch house, Bowring Ranch house, and Fort Hartsuff visitors’ center

July 17 – Deadline for successful applicants of elk, antelope and deer draw units to complete the purchase of their awarded permits

Amid the COVID-19 health crisis, Game and Parks continues to work on opening and allowing additional activities and events that can be conducted safely with the protection of our customers and staff.

Keep up to date on all cancellations, postponements and closures for Game and Parks at Visit for updates on Game and Parks’ events.