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Fishing can be calm distraction from daily stress

As we come to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is increasingly evident we are in a crisis like none in recent history.

When we think we’ve seen it all, a new day dawns with another wave of bad news. What the virus already has done is scary enough. What it might yet do is still unclear.

Still we want to be optimistic. We want to find a diversion from the onslaught of worries. But diversions are increasingly difficult to find.

We can’t just throw on our Carlos Carrasco jersey and Indians cap and drive to downtown Cleveland for a ballgame. We cannot enjoy a cozy dinner at our favorite restaurant. But we still can hitch up the boat and go to Mosquito Lake for spring walleyes, crappies and perhaps a snaggle-toothed northern pike.

Everyday activities like work and play are vastly different than they were even two weeks ago. Fishing, however, remains freely accessible for those who love it as a break from their everyday lives.

I encourage people to go to the water. I’m not being trite or flippant. When our troubles mount, fishing is good medicine.

For the time being, fishing is still an option and several shops around Mosquito Lake and other local waters are open to serve visiting anglers. Mosquito Marina operator Joe Sofchek confirmed his shop is open and fully stocked, as are the Lakeside and Causeway shops.

Permits for bass and walleye tournaments in the state park are suspended through April, but the public still can enjoy their own fishing time.

“All the ramps are open and we’ll start boat rentals in a week or so,” Sofchek said Thursday from his marina in Mosquito State Park. “The only things closed are the federal areas. They are updating me every day about the state park and so far, we’re good. Fishing is one of the only things people have left to do.”

Some 1,300 miles south of Mosquito, fishing guide Will Geraghty sees a different world around Naples, Florida, today than he saw just a few weeks ago. Bookings have slowed due to the coronavirus even as spring-break crowds should be putting a strain on the Southwest Florida fishing industry.

“It’s reminiscent of the BP oil spill out in the Gulf of Mexico,” he said about the slowdown. “We’re on the cusp of some really awesome spring fishing and the phones should be ringing off the hook.”

Today, as much as ever, we need to find opportunities to put the world’s worries aside for a few hours. Fishing is good for the soul. It’s also good for the body.

Fishing helped me heal quickly in 2011 when I experienced a heart attack. Fishing helped me cope with the passing of loved ones and other troubling times. I had fishing to look forward to in the days after 9/11 when our world seemed to be caving in around us.

We are never the same after a life-threatening ailment, the death of a parent or an attack on our shores. But we survive and move on thanks to the support of friends and family, our own sheer will and our amazing capacity to occupy ourselves by doing things that pull us away from our suffering and anxieties.

This is not the first time our world has been confronted with such a challenge. The Civil War, the Great Depression, world wars and 9/11 rocked our society’s foundation. But we emerged and grew stronger.

I first came to understand the fragility of our mortality on a day in October 1962 while riding in the car with my father as he fretted about the prospect of a nuclear missile launch while President John F. Kennedy worked to solve the Cuban Missile Crisis. Would we live to see next week?

That’s pretty serious stuff for a 9-year-old — just like the threat posed to our way of life by a viral disease that’s reached pandemic proportions.

Worrying won’t solve the COVID-19 pandemic. Nor will fishing. But if fishing can help us pass the time until the virus wanes, then we’ll all be in better shape for the new reality that awaits us.

In the meantime, be smart. Stay safe. Avoid crowds. Don’t shake hands. Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Wipe surfaces with disinfectant. Cover up your coughs and sneezes. Don’t touch your face and if you feel sick, stay home!

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