The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission opened trout season early to avoid the spring-break conditions that sometimes accompany opening day (previously April 18 in most places). At the same time, it also issued guidelines for fishing safely during the pandemic.

All anglers who go to Pennsylvania’s streams, rivers, and lakes should “do their part to protect themselves, their families, and others to prevent the spread of the virus,” read a statement by commission spokesperson Mike Parker. Getting outside and fishing can be good for physical and mental health, he said, but “we must remain consistent with social distancing guidelines established under Gov. Wolf’s stay-at-home order.”

Pennsylvania’s decision to advance the opening day of trout season followed a similar move by New Jersey. New Jersey also closed its state parks and forests this week. State parks, game lands, and forests in Pennsylvania remain open.

On YouTube, the Pennsylvania commission offered recommendations for trout anglers about how to stay safe. If you want to get outside and go fishing, here’s what you need to know:

If you don’t feel well, don’t go fishing. If you’re exhibiting any of the symptoms of the coronavirus — including fever, cough, or shortness of breath — stay home.

Cover your face with a mask, bandanna, or wrap. Here’s our easy tutorial on how to make one.

Fish close to home. Slowing the spread in part depends on reducing travel. Visit to find a stream or lake in your immediate area.

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Fish either by yourself or with members of your immediate family.

Keep six feet away from other anglers, and don’t share gear. If another angler approaches, Parker suggested turning your fishing rod to the side to provide “a visual marker of the six-foot social distance.” He asked that you respect the space of other anglers.

Spread out; the fish have. Parker said the state stocked trout during the preseason “at an accelerated pace,” and the fish have had “plenty of time to spread out.” Anglers should disperse, and seek more remote places to fish, when possible. If your favorite spot is crowded, try another location.

If you don’t already have a license, buy one online to avoid in-person contact.

“No fish is worth putting your health or the health of others at risk,” Parker said. You don’t have to be symptomatic to have and spread the virus. So stay away from others.

On its website, the commission also advises anglers to refrain from carpooling, and advises families to make sure small children respect the space of other anglers.

The commission reminded anglers that many state park restrooms are closed and staffing has been reduced. “Use the bathroom before you visit or dispose of waste properly,” the state advised.