The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved emergency measures to allow counties to self-regulate recreational and sport fishing in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved emergency measures to allow counties to self-regulate recreational and sport fishing in response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The measures from the commission will allow for “surgical and narrow implementation” in helping counties decide fishing regulations, according to California Fish and Game Commission President Eric Sklar and Director Charlton Bonham.

The commission granted emergency authority to the director of the state Department of Fish and Wildlife to postpone the spring trout season at the request of a few rural counties, The Associated Press reported.

Sklar and Bonham started Wednesday’s meeting by reiterating that officials were not contemplating total bans.

“Neither the Department of Fish and Wildlife nor the Fish and Game Commission has proposed a statewide closure of statewide fishing. Neither intends to do so,” Bonham was quoted as saying by The Associated Press.

After he was granted the emergency authority, the AP reported Bonham said any limits he imposes would be in response “to local needs in this public health emergency” and would expire May 31.

“The department director could only act after consultation with the commission president and consultation with city and tribal governments,” Sklar said. 

The areas that have received the most attention were Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties, which are located on the eastern Sierra mountains and draw thousands of anglers from across the world who fish for trout. The peak season starts in April. 

Mono Supervisor John Peters explained his area doesn’t have the resources to help support an influx of tourism his county usually receives.

There are also fears that people traveling from out of the area would contribute to spreading coronavirus. The demographics of senior citizens in each of these areas range between 15% to 25%.

“I’ve been a local advocate for the fisheries and I will continue to advocate for people to continue to come to Mono County and enjoy fishing,” Peters said. “It is not practical, safe or responsible to ask our population of less than 15,000 and get through the introduction of thousands of people.”

Shasta County Sheriff Eric Magrini issued a letter last week to the commission’s Executive Director Melissa Miller-Henson voicing support for the fishing community. He also stated in the letter that law enforcement would be difficult because “it would be almost impossible to differentiate between recreational fishing versus someone seeking a source of food.”

Issues have been raised about out-of-state anglers going to Lake Shasta. Oregon has closed fishing and hunting to non-residents.  

It’s become a problem for Redding resident Mark Stephens and his sons Mark Jr. and Tanner who have fished the lake three to four times a week. 

“I think Shasta County should consider shutting down Lake Shasta and other Shasta County areas to out-of-state fishermen,” Stephens said. “Because right now when we go to go Shasta Lake, it’s full of Oregon license plates. And I know their areas have been shut down to California fishermen so I can’t see why they can fish the California waterways.” 

NorCal Junior Bass Club President Scott Alexander believes fishing is needed to combat any mental fatigue that has come through the state’s stay-at-home order.

“Fishing is one of those unique sports that allows people to recreate and enjoy the outdoors and to have a respite from what’s been going on,” Alexander said. “It also allows for social distancing and comply with the governor’s requests.”