Update:4/20/2020: Stacy Corless, Mono County District 5 Supervisor and Current Chair said in a post that they expect to receive a letter tomorrow from CDFW confirming a delay in the fishing season opener. The exact contents of the letter are unknown at this time, and the the Sierra Wave will post it as soon as we receive a copy of it.
Update 4/19/2020: According to the Inyo County Public Information Officer Carma Roper. the county had not yet received an official communication from the California Department of Fish & Wildlife Director, Charlton Bonham, granting the request for a delay of the fish opening, but that the county is “anticipating one soon.”
As soon as Sierra Wave receives confirmation of such a communication, we will share it with our readers, viewers and listeners.
June 1st Fish Season Opening? Fishmas Delayed is not Fishmas Denied
The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously to give authority, at its second attempt online, audio-only public meeting held on Wednesday, April 15, for state CDFW director, Charlton Bonham, to temporarily delay, suspend or restrict recreational fishing in specifically targeted counties at the request of their elected officials and local public health officers to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The soonest the Trout Opening will begin in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties would be June 1, which is when the authority given to the CDFW director to delay the official, state-sanctioned fish openings in those counties ends. To be extended, another vote by the CFG Commission would be required. And that will depend on conditions on the ground in the affected counties. So, goodbye to Fishmas in the Eastern Sierra, which is already effectively shut-down by public health officials and government officials at all levels closing local businesses, restaurants, campgrounds, hospitality venues and public lands and facilities.
T.S. Elliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month” in the opening lines of The Waste Land, published in 1922. And although the poem had nothing at all to do with fishing, the sentiment still applies; the sentiment that, exiting April, brings an escape from isolation brought on from the winter, when Spring breaks out, and the escape from the confines of the cities allow a celebration and exodus to the outdoors, for many exemplified by the simple act of “going fishing,” usually kicked off and celebrated by the “opening day of fishing.”
Fishmas is a highly successful marketing message developed by local chambers of commerce to promote trout fishing in the Eastern Sierra by targeting visitors to come enjoy the fishing, camping, climbing, hiking, and just pure experience of being in the great outdoors exemplified by the beautiful landscapes of the Eastern Sierra. A pandemic outbreak is a problem no one could have anticipated. The collective fear of local residents is that a large influx of outsiders to the area might quickly overwhelm the very limited healthcare resources, especially the local hospitals, in our small communities.
Mono County Board of Supervisors’ Chair Stacy Corless told the CFG that, “No one wants to be the Grinch who postpones Fishmas. That said, we do ask you to postpone the trout season opener due to public health concerns with the pandemic.”
And so they have.
As of today, Saturday, Alpine County had 2 confirmed positive cases, including 1 non-county resident, and 1 death; Mono County had 23 positive cases and 1 death; and Inyo County had 18 positive cases with “0” (no deaths). While these numbers appear very low, these are some of the least populated counties in the state, with very limited resources to cope with an outbreak of coronavirus should a surge in the number of cases occur, especially if brought into the area from outsiders seeking recreation.
Where trout openers and other outdoor activities occur, CFG Chair President Eric Sklar says that, “hunters and fishers need to be smart about social distancing, not congregate in parking lots wherever you go.” He cautioned that “We need hunters and fishers to provide that leadership, do these activities without congregating.”
So, this year the Eastern Sierra will go without its traditional Fishmas, or at least until June 1…unless changed again. But then again, “April is the cruelest month,” for at least this year. Maybe May will prove to be “a nicer one.”