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 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.

Siskiyou County Sheriff Jon Lopey said he also has some concerns about a large number of people from out of the county showing up to take advantage of Siskiyou County’s excellent fishing sites due to COVID-19 threats. However, he said, “Siskiyou County authorities are managing this crisis well and the overall threat at this time does not justify the suspension of fishing opportunities in our county.

“Citizens should practice social distances, not engage in group activities, wash their hands frequently, and stay at home if they are exhibiting any signs or symptoms of the COVID-19 illness or cold or flu-type symptoms,” Lopey said.

He said he believes it is important for Siskiyou County citizens to have “a healthy outlet outdoors with which to enjoy our fish, wildlife, and wilderness areas.”

“This emergency period has been stressful for many and allowing them the regularly-scheduled opportunity to fish and otherwise enjoy the outdoors is a positive way to support them and their emotional and psychological wellbeing.”

Lopey added that he purchases fishing license every year “and although I seldom have time to use it, these licenses are very expensive and in some cases less fortunate people must supplement their food menu by legally acquiring fish through such activities. I think people have the right to enjoy the fish and wildlife we are fortunate to have in abundance in Siskiyou County and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife license opportunities for various fishing and hunting activities help to fund these natural resources we enjoy throughout the year.”

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.”

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

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