East Texans swarm to lakes after events canceled due to pandemic

Game wardens enforcing safety regulations on East Texas waterways

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - With no ball games, no concerts and most traditional spring and summer events canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, East Texans are turning to the waterways,

And this presents a problem for game wardens, having to enforce the safety rules on waterways packed with boaters and swimmers.

It’s the last weekend in May and lakes, beaches and waterways are jammed with East Texans getting out for some recreation.

"We definitely needed to get out of the house, the kids for sure. To me it's just spending quality time with friends and family and getting to just be in the water and enjoy outdoors," says Gladewater resident Catherine Moyers.

And with all the visitors, game wardens are out in force on the lakes trying to ensure safety regulations are being followed.

“Typically this time of year it’s already busy. Then you throw in the COVID-19 challenge, people out of work, we have seen an increased capacity. Everybody is getting out social distancing on the lakes and on the boats,” says Texas game warden Todd Long.

The sheer volume of visitors to the lakes presents a challenge to game wardens, and they also have to deal with a new problem. First time boat owners.

“Many of them have never owned a boat, never been on a lake, never been on the water, but now they’re buying boats. Dealerships selling boats, sporting goods fishing aisles cleared,” Long says.

Fishing boats, jet-skis and leisure craft can crowd any waterway.

"Certain lakes are smaller than others and there is a capacity there. There could be some risk there," Todd says.

And wardens will be looking for the same type infractions with so much traffic.

“We’ll be checking for life jackets, impaired operators. Boating while intoxicated is always a big problem in the summer. Throw cushions, fire extinguishers,” says Long.

Game wardens strongly urge that first time boat owners take a boating safety class before hitting the waterways.

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