Social distancing led to sport fishery delays


California’s recreational salmon fishery did not open on April 4 as planned. In honor of the state’s social distancing rules, the National Marine Fisheries Service postponed the opener to the popular sport fishery by a month. Advisors from the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife supported the decision from the service, which this month announced the fishery is set to open at the beginning of May. The commercial salmon fishery is still on target, set to open at the same time. But even as the seasons open, Peter McHugh, a spokesman for Fish and Wildlife, said there are continued complications for access. Widespread closures of launch ramp facilities, charter boat operations and new restrictions to harbor and marina access pose challenges for anglers. “It may be a situation where some individual recreational anglers have access and others do not,” he said. The recreational fishery could be postponed again, but, he said, “The assumption is that commercial will definitely be proceeding, given that many of those anglers are moored and that it is an essential activity in terms of the production of food.” Mr. McHugh said the recreational season could extend later in the year than planned, should the month-long delay have a beneficial impact on fishing stocks. On April 16, the Fish and Game Commission gave the director of Fish and Wildlife temporary authority through May to close recreational fisheries in response to the pandemic. This week, the director pushed the trout fishing opener back a month to May 31 in three counties—Inyo, Mono and Alpine—that typically draw thousands in the spring. County officials had asked for the delay, and the response to their request was severe: A virtual Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting was abruptly canceled earlier this month when those conducting the meeting could not hear themselves over the shouting fishermen who tuned in. The areas open to trout fishing in Marin are unaffected by the decision, and some are set to open on schedule later this month.