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Fishing: Trout opener may be delayed due to coronavirus

Doug Busey
Special to the Tribune
A rainbow trout.
File photo provided / Phil Reedy

Hello fellow anglers.

As many of you know, there is an important date coming up. April 25 was to be the trout season opener for many Sierra lakes, rivers and streams.

This year because of the outbreak of COVID-19, the California Fish and Game commission has proposed a new regulation that may temporarily suspend or delay the opener to protect public health.

The commission was to meet this week, but this meeting was moved to next week to make sure that they receive a great amount of input from counties and tribes.

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CDFW game code section 8.02, title 14 CCR states: Special Measures for Sport Fishing to Protect Public Health from the Immediate Threat Posed by COVID-19.(a) The commission has established a quick response process to temporarily suspend, delay, or restrict sport (also known as recreational) fishing to protect public health from the immediate threat posed by COVID-19, including deviation from the automatic conformance process for salmon and Pacific halibut provided in Section 1.95. (b) The department shall temporarily close any waters of the state to sport fishing or restrict the sport take of any species of fish if the director, or his designee, after consulting with the president of the commission, or the president’s designee, finds that such action is necessary to protect public health from the immediate threat posed by COVID-19 after considering: (1) Current public health guidance from the director of the California Department of Public Health, (2) Current public health guidance from the primary public health official of any county or Native American tribal government that would be affected by the closure or restriction on take, (3) Current public health guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and (4) The need to preserve public safety based on input from state, federal, tribal, or local law enforcement or other government agencies. (c) The department shall reopen any waters or lift any restrictions on the taking of a fish species imposed pursuant to subsection (b) when the director, or his designee, after consulting with the president of the commission, or the president’s designee, and after considering current public health guidance and the need to preserve public safety, finds that the closures of those waters or restrictions on the taking of a fish species is no longer necessary to protect public health from the immediate threat posed by COVID19. (d) It shall be unlawful to take fish in any waters of the state closed to sport fishing or in violation of any restrictions imposed on the sport take of a fish species pursuant to this section. (e) The department shall maintain a list of affected waters and restrictions on the taking of a fish species imposed pursuant to subsection (b) and update that list daily by 7 p.m. The fishing status for each specific water or fish species shall take effect at 12:01 a.m. on the day immediately following the update.

It is the responsibility of the angler to use the telephone number (916-445-7600) or to check the department’s website to obtain the current status of any water and restrictions on the taking of a fish species.

The CDFW also wanted to make it crystal clear that this proposed decision was not about banning fishing statewide or locally. They are not contemplating a statewide closure.

The CDFW is working with counties and tribes to make a tailored and surgical approach based on theirs requests. These counties would include Inyo, Mono and Alpine and El Dorado just to name a few. In basic terms, if you have plans to camp or fish the June Lake loop area all the way up to the east or west fork of the Carson Rivers in Alpine County, I would make other plans.

All campgrounds and short time lodging will be closed. Most areas may have road closures not allowing anyone but the local residence to enter.

I read a request from the Mono County Board of Supervisors and their township, asking the CDFG to postpone the seasons trout opener. it reads as follows;

On behalf of the Mono County Board of Supervisors, Mammoth Lakes Town Council, Mono County Sheriff Ingrid Braun, and Mono County Public Health Officer, we are writing to request the postponement of the opening of trout fishing season scheduled for April 25.

On April 1, the Mono County Board of Supervisors discussed potential impacts of the annual Fishing Opener weekend, April 25-26, on the public health and safety of local residents, communities and visitors. Fishing Opener, known as, “Fishmas” in Mono County, is a long-standing, traditional event that celebrates the beginning of the regular trout fishing season, and attracts thousands of anglers to the County’s front country lakes and rivers. Governor Newsom’s March 19 “Stay-At-Home” Executive Order requiring all Californians to stay in their place of residence through April 30 should theoretically eliminate visitation to the Eastern Sierra.

Indeed, all short-term lodging rentals and campgrounds, most restaurants, shops, amenities, and attractions are closed in compliance with the State and local Public Health Officer’s orders.

However, despite the governor’s directives, and despite the lack of available accommodation and amenities, we are unfortunately still seeing numerous visitors who are hiking, climbing, ski touring, camping, and recreating.

I have also spoke with Fish and Game Commission from Alpine County. They have decided not to plant any of the rivers and streams until after the stay at home order has been lifted. They are asking everyone to stay home and away from Alpine County. They as well want to protect their small community from outside traffic and the spread of the COVID-19 Virus.

In all my 27 years of writing this report, I have never told anglers to stay home for the last Saturday in April. It has always been a celebration of the start of the years fishing season, way back to the days of the annual Naw-B-Que at the Carson River Resort.

For right now, we are still allowed to get out and fish with social distancing in many areas. I would ask that all anglers carry a face covering when we are in close contact with others. We may be 6 feet away from a fellow angler while talking, but the winds may carry any potential bug in any direct for a greater distance of just 6 feet.

It shows a respect for yourself as well as your fellow anglers. I will have another report next week with the latest on the CDFW decision and what it will entail. For our local area, the NDOW has planted Hinkson Slough, Mtn View Park Pond, Walker River EF, Mitch Pond, Baily Pond, Davis Creek Pond and Wilson Common Pond.

Topaz Lake has closed the Douglas County campground area, but the boat ramp and day use facilities are open. Reminder if you use the boat launch, try not to touch the dock or hand rail.

Indian Creek reservoir is open. The fishing has been very slow and the water level is still up. Make sure to rinse your fish off at home before eating or freezing your catch. The algae level is still in the cautious range, please keep all pets away from the lake for extra measures.

May we all be on the waters soon. Be well and be safe. And as always good fishin’ and tight lines.


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