With a shutdown in the United States government, nearly one million employees are not able to work. But in northern West Virginia, area fishermen and women are also feeling that pinch.
This weekend, a bass fishing tournament along the Monongahela River is scheduled to take place. Normally contestants would be able to catch bass anywhere along the river between Fairmont and Point Marion, Pennsylvania. But because of the government shutdown, the United States’ Corps of Engineers employees aren’t able to open the locks. So that will limit the ability of fishermen to travel up and down the river. Tim Mitchem is the president with B.A.S.S. Nation of West Virginia.
"Once the government shut down, I received a message that they wouldn’t be able to honor that agreement. They’re not allowed to pay anybody overtime, during a furlough, which is essentially what they’re doing with the staff there. The locks will not be open for us," he said.
Mitchem is frustrated because the Corps of Engineers and organizations like B.A.S.S. have been negotiating for months to keep the locks open as much as possible during the tournament.
"A lot of people say this is just a fishing tournament. It is, but when you plan for something for over a year, which is what we’ve done, but we’ve got people spending money in the area, and we could have people not even show up to this tournament now, because they are not going to want to fish in a congested area. So it could affect a lot of things. It’s frustrating, but we have to deal with what we have to deal with," said Mitchem.
The fishermen will be using only one section of the river for the tournament. Metchum says it’s better than nothing, but it’s not that good either. Mitchem didn’t want to move the tournament, since several hotel rooms were already booked.
"It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not an ideal situation, because when you have that many boats in that limited space of water, it’s difficult for guys to find fishing spots that haven’t been fished many times over. Saturday should be an alright day, Sunday will probably be more difficult and we will probably see that when fish are brought in for weigh-in," he said.
But Mitchem said the tournament will go on, and wants the public to come to enjoy two days of fishing.