San Diego County shuts down recreational boating and fishing

COVID-19-themed order was amended to prohibit on-water and in-water activities in San Diego Bay as of April 4.

SAN DIEGO—Recreational boating activities at all bays in San Diego County have been restricted, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as of April 4. Recreational fishing has also been prohibited as part of the order.

Transient docks and anchorages are still open.

“Boating for recreational purposes, watersports or swimming are prohibited on or in public waterways and beaches,” the amended county order stated.

San Diego County’s health officer initially issued an order on March 29, restricting various activities in response to COVID-19 pandemic. The April 4 amendment addressed recreational boating activities; the amendment also required all employees of grocery stories, pharmacies, drug stores, convenience stores, gas station, restaurants and food delivery services to where a face mask whenever they interact with the public.

The order applies to San Diego Bay, Mission Bay and Oceanside Harbor. Inland waterways and coastal lagoons managed by various city, county or state agencies would also have to abide by the order.


Port of San Diego

Port district staff provided answers to some questions about the order.

“San Diego Bay is closed to recreation – including boating, kayaking, paddleboarding and recreational fishing – until further notice,” according to port district staff. “These orders allow public agencies, including law enforcement, to focus resources on protecting public health and safety during this global health and economic crisis. We understand this isn’t welcome news – we hope it will be for a short duration.

“Water recreation is not considered an essential activity,” port staff continued in a statement issued to the public.

The San Diego Bay channel is not closed, but anyone navigating in or out of the harbor should expect to be stopped and questioned by Harbor Police, according to port district staff.

“Law enforcement, including Harbor Police, is prepared to issue citations for violations of the state and county stay-at-home orders,” port district staff stated. “Those citations carry a maximum fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail.”

The application of the county order to liveaboards will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, according to port district staff.


Fishing as Subsistence?

Licensed or registered vessels engaging in commercial fishing activities – with valid permits – are still allowed to operate and use Shelter Island Boat Launch Ramp to access the bay.

Recreational fishing – whether from the shoreline or on the water – is prohibited under the county order, according to port district staff.

The San Diego County order, however, did not provide clarity of whether anyone who relies upon fishing for subsistence would be allowed to continue engaging in such activities.

“We live aboard our boat, and often go out to fish for dinner,” Kate Groff said in an email to The Log. “It’s my understanding that in spite of the financial hardships people are facing here … they will not even be permitted to go crabbing or fishing for food for their families.”

Groff, who is a restaurant owner, added Maryland enacted on-the-water restrictions in response to COVID-19 but still allowed subsistence fishing.

“Limited fishing is allowed if you are seeking food for you or your family, but the social distancing guidelines and the prohibition on social gatherings must be strictly followed,” a news update issued by Maryland’s governor’s office stated. “If an individual is boating to seek food for them or their family, boating is permitted.”

Anyone using a boat as his or her primary residence would be allowed to remain on the vessel, under Maryland’s COVID-19 orders. Kayaking and paddleboarding were also permitted as forms of exercise, no different than bicycling, under Maryland’s COVID-19 orders.

“Since kayaking and paddleboarding are both human-powered forms of exercise, akin to bicycling, they are permitted under the executive order,” the Maryland governor’s office stated.

4 thoughts on “San Diego County shuts down recreational boating and fishing

  • April 16, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    The great outdoors is still safe for activities like fishing. We can maintain social distancing and keep businesses open for fishing. These rules in San Diego, like those in Michigan where they prohibit motor boats, have gone too far.

  • April 16, 2020 at 2:55 pm

    Bicycling all over the city is fine alone or with others is OK by taking my sailboat out is not? I’m confused by strange interpretation of restrictions as there is much less personal contact on the water.

  • April 17, 2020 at 1:54 pm

    Utterly ridiculous! In my many years of fishing from my boat I’ve never been closer than six feet from a stranger. I don’t need a big brother to babysit me and never wanted one. I guess the harbor patrol needs to flex their muscles in boredom.

    • May 27, 2020 at 2:35 pm

      what a joke. i can ride all day long with a friend in my truck , but ì i go out fishing in my boat in the ocean my ftiend cannot come along because he dóe not sleep at my house.oh my wife can go with me or daughter can brcause they live in the same house.dam to bad they have no interest in fishing. it lôks like i got to go out any where from 5 to 50 miles of shore by my self.not safe at all. lôks like soẻones putting me in danger not being able to to jave fishing partnet with me. hope nothing happens. ì it dóe my wife will be vẻy rich sueing yhe idiots who ảe writing up thế lắ



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