Some counties across California would normally be rejoicing at the thought of thousands of people visiting for the season openers for trout and salmon. Instead they’re asking the state to step in and delay the seasons to limit the spread of coronavirus.
Some counties have already done what they can.
The parking lot of the Marysville boat ramp north of Sacramento had one boat in it Tuesday afternoon. Brian Clemens owns the boat and the business Nor Cal Fly Guides.
“It’s usually pretty stacked this time of year,” he said, referring to the rows of empty spaces.
He says the spring months are prime fishing time for several species such as striped bass, steelhead, and trout. The new order from Yuba and Sutter bi-county health officer Phuong Luu allows only a boat with one person, or a family on the water.
“There’s still significant pockets of the community who are not adhering to the stay-at-home directive,” Luu said in announcing Monday that what had been a directive is now an order, enforceable by the cities and counties police and sheriffs departments. That means no fishing with friends or — the new order says — golf, playgrounds, or visits to dog parks..
Clemens says he sees the need, to a point.
“You got charters that have 20 people (on the boat),” he said referring to social media posts. “I think that’s a little too much. But guides like myself that have two people on the boat at most, I think pulling that’s a little crazy. I can guarantee you my boat is cleaner than your house.”
He doesn’t qualify for state unemployment benefits since he owns his own business. The federal coronavirus relief bill may provide some benefits, but is not yet available.
Some 230 miles away, Mono County has asked the state to postpone trout season. The opener traditionally draws thousands of people to the four rivers that are stocked by the state.
“We have one small hospital with roughly 15-17 beds,” said Jeff Simpson, head of the Mono County Tourism Department. “So, we can barely keep up with our resident population let alone second-home owners or visitors right now. We are actively saying, ‘Stay home.’”
But a county can’t just call off or delay a fishing season. Only the California Fish and Game Commission has the authority to do that and it’s expected to release that authority during an emergency meeting on Thursday. On the docket: giving that authority to the director of the California Fish and Wildlife Department.
But there would be restrictions. If approved, the director could only act if an elected board, tribe, local health inspector or state department of public health director made a request.
“We’d sort of surgically be able to delay a season or a particular species or a particular waterway based on what those asks are,” said department spokeswoman Jordan Traverso.
She says the department has already received a “handful” of requests so far and acknowledged that many communities have already acted by blocking off access to boat ramps, docks, beaches and the like.
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