Covid-19 Affects Oconee, Sinclair Tournaments

Sheriff asks tournaments to reschedule, and Sugar Creek Marina has canceled all upcoming tournaments for now.

Brad Gill | April 1, 2020

If you enjoy competing in fishing tournaments on lakes Oconee or Sinclair, it may be time to shift gears and do a little yard work.

In a statement released on March 30 by Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills, he is asking fishing tournament directors to reschedule any tournaments taking place between now and at least April 6, unless tournaments can comply by certain guidelines that keeps all participants at least 6 feet apart from each other.

Sills writes, “On March 24, 2020 the Board of Commissioners of Putnam County passed a resolution declaring a ‘Local State of Emergency’ that prohibits ALL private or public gatherings of 10 or more people at any event, indoors or outdoors, unless the people at the event were at least 6 feet apart from each other. Any person violating said resolution will be subject to citation or arrest for Disorderly Conduct.

“The aforementioned order and resolution are in effect until April 6, 2020, and I expect they may very well be continued from some time thereafter.

“If you have a scheduled fishing tournament or intend to have such an event in Putnam County, please reschedule your tournament to a later date, or arrange the event in a fashion where it will be conducted in a manner where there will be no violations of the county’s resolution or the Governor’s Order.”

The Governor’s Order that Sills is referencing is Gov. Brian Kemp’s March 23 announcement prohibiting any business, establishment, corporation or organization from allowing more than 10 people to gather at a single location if such a gathering required persons to be seated or standing within 6 feet of another person.

Sugar Creek Marina, Lake Oconee’s most popular fishing tournament host, has made a decision to suspend all tournaments until the COVID-19 crisis settles down.

Sugar Creek Marina made this announcement on their Facebook page on March 30: “COVID-19: Our store and marina remain open at this time. We do ask for your help in keeping safe distances from each other while shopping or using our ramps and docks. We are not allowing more than 10 people inside the store at a time. We ask you to please wait outside if there are too many inside. If you are part of a larger group, please only send whoever is necessary inside to shop or pay for gas.

“Also, We will NOT be hosting any fishing tournaments until restrictions on gatherings are removed. Our boat ramp does remain open for regular use. We will monitor the use of the ramp daily and may at times close or restrict use if the area becomes too crowded. As a reminder we do not allow fishing from the marina docks or shoreline.

“We continue to routinely sanitize all surfaces such as door handles and credit card terminals throughout the day.

“Get out and enjoy some relaxing time on the lake boating or fishing, but please do so responsibly and keep your distance from other.

“We appreciate your support and business. Stay Safe!”

Bass tournament anglers arrive at the dock at Lake Oconee’s Sugar Creek Marina just in time for a bass-tournament weigh-in. All upcoming fishing tournaments have been canceled at Sugar Creek until the COVID-19 crisis passes.

William Clark, Sugar Creek Marina’s general manager, says the recent change was necessary.

“I thought it was best for our business not to host any tournaments going forward while restrictions are in place,” said William. “I felt it would be impossible to have a crowd here for a tournament registration and more so a weigh-in and be able to keep everyone the 6 feet apart to comply with gatherings of more than 10 people.   

“Also, after witnessing how busy the lake was this past Saturday and later reading about the gatherings and overcrowded boats on the lake, hosting a tournament would just add to the complaints going around.

“At this time we still have access to our lake with public boat ramps for people to get out on the lake to boat and fish responsibly. If we continue to have people not following social distancing guidelines, we may lose this access as other states have done. We must all do our part to control this.”

A tournament trail that will be affected because of COVID-19 will be the Berry’s Tournament Trail event that was set to launch from Sugar Creek Marina on Saturday, April 4. Berry’s also has an April 18 tournament on Sinclair, which utilizes the Dennis Station Ramp in Putnam County, that could be canceled if we don’t see a quick turnaround in the COVID-19 crisis and government leaders expand restrictions. That decision still has not been made.

“When we go back into operation, we will follow our schedule up until the (May 16-17) Classic,” said Bobby Berry. “We’ll have to move the Classic and put however many tournaments that have been canceled before the Classic. It may make the Classic go into fall.”

Lakes have been crowded, and while fishing isn’t an issue, pleasure-boaters congregating and too many people at ramps or tournament weigh-ins has become a concern. The corps has closed many recreation areas nationwide, and the South Carolina governor yesterday closed every public boat ramp in the state. Changes and closures are occurring regularly, so check before you hook up the boat and head to your favorite ramp.

For contact info to keep up with tournaments, go to GON’s latest Cast For Cash calendar.

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