JD Richey’s fishing trips are mostly solo these days, not by choice.
For much of the last quarter of a century, Richey, 51, has taken clients on fishing trips across northern California and all the way to Alaska. Over the past two months, he has watched his fishing guide business collapse due to the COVID-19 crisis.
Fishing guides are not considered essential workers, and in many areas state and local governments have closed boat launches and marinas that would allow him to access the water.
For a while, Richey did something that a guide accustomed to meeting clients long before sunrise rarely gets a chance to do: He slept.
âIt wasn’t really productive,â he said. It made him depressed. He sulked in the house he shares with his wife and their son in South Lake Tahoe.
Richey’s wife Tamara issued an ultimatum: Go fishing. Or else.
“My wife insists that I go out for an hour or two every morning or as often as I can, for mental health reasons,” he said.
The simple act of throwing trout and bass is a welcome respite as he floats around Lake Tahoe in the 10-foot jon boat that he drags down to the water because of the launch ramps. water are closed. He calls the boat his “one man sanity pod.”
Richey moved from the Sacramento area to Tahoe a few months earlier in hopes of changing his business model.
Fishing for salmon and rainbow trout in the rivers of the northern state has long been Richey’s main source of income, but fishing for these species has been difficult in recent years. Drought and habitat decline have made the Central Valley’s fishing seasons a mess. Several recent ones have been terrible.
Richey decided he would move to Tahoe and take care of the wealthy clients looking to catch fish in the clear blue waters of Tahoe. He invested in a $ 50,000 boat; the family bought a house for $ 461,000.
He was about to start booking Tahoe for the season when the pandemic stopped him. He also had to cancel his striped bass fishing trips from the Sacramento Valley in the spring. He doesn’t know when he will be able to start guiding again this summer. The Lake Tahoe region is only now starting to discuss lifting its campaign calling for aliens with potential disease to stay away. He heard that the Tahoe boat launches may not be open until July or later.
âIt seemed like a good plan to move here to a more viable fishery and tons of potential customers, but, for now, we are asking potential customers not to be in our city,â he said.
In the absence of money, he tried to get funds from the various stimulus packages and government assistance programs for small businesses, but he is not having much luck. There is about $ 300 million in federal disaster assistance set aside for the fishing industry, with $ 18.3 million going to California, but he doesn’t expect the inside guides get a lot out of it.
So he launches his line every morning.
And he tries not to let uncertainty and fear pull him like an anchor.
âIt’s really hard because I’m the only breadwinner, you know? ” he said.
This story was originally published May 13, 2020 5:00 a.m.