Anglers, some hauling boats, were among the thousands protesting Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s restrictive stay-at-home order, which includes prohibiting the use of motorized boats.
Wednesday’s Operation Gridlock, organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition, brought roadways around the state capitol in Lansing to a halt. Many believe Whitmer’s move to battle the COVID-19 pandemic is overreaching, infringing on their rights and causing undue economic hardships.
One man who brought his boat from West Michigan told WOOD-TV 8, “I just don’t see why I can’t take my kids out fishing. I don’t see why that’s not essential. We are old enough to wash our hands, be safe about it and use some common sense — that’s all it takes.”
Whitmer pointed to her state having the third most coronavirus cases in America with 28,059 and 1,921 deaths. “Unless it’s a life-sustaining activity, we’re asking people to stay at home,” said Whitmer, who is now facing federal lawsuits in that her order violates First Amendment rights.
Mark Zona and Kevin VanDam are the two highest-profile bass anglers from Michigan. Both believe the boating rules are excessive and contradictory. They think enjoying the outdoors can be done prudently.
“I really think we can go fishing and we can go hunting in a safe, smart and healthy manner. We can enjoy the outdoors safely,” Zona said. “Am I for regulations for us to be safer? Absolutely. But gosh, when you shut down our rights to fish, that’s the scariest thing on earth.”
On April 9, Whitmer enacted 2020-42 that extended a prior order through the end of the month, which includes limits on gatherings and a fine of $1,000 to congregate with individuals who do not reside in your household.
Under the new order, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources stated:
“Non-motorized boating, such as canoeing, kayaking and sailing, falls within the outdoor activities permitted under the ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ Executive Order. However, the use of a motorboat, jet ski or similar watercraft is not permitted for the duration of the Executive Order, which is currently set to expire at 11:59 p.m. [on] April 30.”
Zona and VanDam said that seems contradictory.
“I’m left speechless with the whole situation,” Zona said. “I cannot go on the pontoon boat with my boys? That is mind boggling. I’m all for restrictions to get us through this challenging time safely, but not the complete closure of boating and our rights to fish — you start walking down a scary road letting that happen.”
Zona said he’s had hundreds if not thousands of texts and calls from anglers asking him to do something.
“I am as upset as the next angler,” he said. “I’ll be honest, the first phone call I made was to Kevin and the second was to (Bass Pro Shops founder) Johnny Morris. Kevin and Johnny are like me, passionate of our rights and being smart and safe stewards of Michigan hunting and fishing.”