County supports move to postpone Fishing Opener

Terrance Vestal
Managing Editor

At its Tuesday meeting, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors voted to send a letter to the California Fish and Game Department requesting that the opening of general fishing season be delayed.
Inyo County Chief Administrative Officer Clint Quilter said the Fishing Opener is set for the end of this month. Given the governor’s order and the various orders issued by the county’s Public Health officer, county staff believes travel to Inyo County for the Fishing Opener would be in violation of all of those orders.
Quilter said county staff also believes enforcement of those orders would be difficult and that the temptation would be great for people to come up here if the Fishing Opener goes as anticipated.
He said the Mono County Board of Supervisors, the town of Mammoth Lakes, their Public Health officer and their sheriff have sent a letter April 1 to the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife as well as the Fish and Game Commission asking to postpone the Fishing Opener.
Quilter said Inyo County Public Health Officer Dr. James Richardson already sent a letter to the director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife for the state resource agency requesting the postponement because he believes that there’s a high probability of violations of his order if the opener happens.
The county administrator said Inyo County Sheriff Jeff Hollowell was a “big part” in drafting the letter, having reached out to the Fish and Wildlife Department, law enforcement officers and the Fish and Game Commission as well to get some advice on how to better approach to the issue.
Hollowell said that the Fish and Game Commission sets all the regulations for sport fishing in the state of California and regulations are set well ahead of the season. Since Inyo County is asking for a postponement, the commission is going to hold a special meeting this morning at which time they will consider turning over part of that authority to the director of Fish and Wildlife.
Hollowell said he hopes the letter helps in getting the event postponed so the county doesn’t see an influx of visitors that would stress the county’s resources.
Marilyn Mann, Inyo County Health and Human Services director, said she supported the postponement due to the potential impact to the county’s health care system as well as a capacity issue that her department is monitoring closely.
“And we love our visitors who come to the Opener for fishing, and would welcome them to come at a later date when it’s more appropriate,” Mann said. For now, however, itchy fisher folk need to “continue to stay and shelter in place where they’re at.”
The board, with some reluctance, approved sending the letter.
The text of the letter, as read by Quilter at the meeting, which was sent to the Fish and Wildlife director and the Fish and Game Commission, states in part:
“With Inyo County, there is an insufficient quantity of critical health care infrastructure, including hospital beds, ventilators and health care staff capable of adequately treating mass numbers of patients.
“For this reason, recreational travel to this area has been discouraged. Developed recreation sites have been closed and recreational short-term lodging, including short-term rentals, vacation rentals, timeshares, hotels, motels, campgrounds, RV parks and any other facilities or property offering the combinations to renters for less than 30 days throughout Inyo County has been prohibited.
“The annual Fishing Opener is one of Inyo County’s most popular recreational events. Though the opener is a major driver of our local tourist economy and is beloved by locals and visitors alike, the event annually draws thousands of people into our small communities, potentially bringing disease into the area and burdening our health care system.
“We believe that Gov. Newsom’s March 19 stay at home executive order requiring all California to stay in their place of residence through April 30, 2020, prohibits all non-essential visitation to the Eastern Sierra. Further, all non-essential businesses in Inyo County are closed, including dining, lodging and camping options. The Bureau of Land Management and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have recently announced that their land is closed to recreation.
“In essence, should the Fishing Opener be held as scheduled, there will be no place for visitors to eat, sleep or recreate. We believe based on these facts that the Fishing Opener will draw significant numbers of people from throughout the state and beyond to fish in our region. This will exacerbate the transmission of COVID-19 and put additional strain on our already taxed health care services. We have begun seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases and have extremely limited resources to manage them. It is likely that by the time of the Fishing Opener our medical system will simply be overwhelmed.”
The letter requests not only the postponement of the Fishing Opener but the postponement of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife fish stocking schedule as well.