Delayed Eastern Sierra trout opener a reality

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SAN CLEMENTE – Last week, the Mono County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to urge the Department of Fish and Wildlife to postpone the April 25 opener. This move received overwhelming support across the board, even by business that greatly rely on visitors such as fishing guides, tackle shops, lodging and other amenities throughout the Highway 395 corridor. Campgrounds are also closed, and the LADWP did some maneuvering of it’s own late last week including shutting down access to the Owens River Gorge and high-traffic parking areas in popular stretches of the Owens around Bishop. Mono County Public Health also extended the order substantially limiting short-term rentals in the Eastside through at least May 31, so, the combination of all these factors made the opener kicking off as scheduled a logistical impossibility.

Prior to many of these restrictions, the area was already continuing to see a large amount of travelers coming in or passing through.

“I contacted the LADWP today and told them my recommendation was to continue to close access to the waters north of the Owens Gorge,” said Doug Rodricks and Sierra Drifters Guide Service. “He thought it was an excellent idea due the number of folks ignoring the stay-at-home order. There are tons of people coming through here, and I have been taking daily calls from anglers asking if fishing is good, what is accessible and if we are available for hire. I have to explain that they should stay home and not come here and why. You’d be surprised at the amount of people that just aren’t getting what’s going on right now. I guess they are thinking that there are no residential areas here, and I guess no hospitals.”

Regarding the availability of health care, the hospital in Mammoth Lakes, for example, only has 17 beds, a handful of ventilators and even when there’s not a global pandemic going on, they have to fly some patients with serious issues to Reno. So, with Mammoth Lakes recently getting into double-digit numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases (doesn’t seem like a big deal, but considering the resident population and the hospital capacity, it’s huge), that Eastern Sierra “united front” and its collective willingness to significantly delay all those tourism dollars is understandable.

As the outbreak continued to grow across the country, I decided to hang up my waders and rods,” said Chris Leonard, who guides out of Kittredge Sports in Mammoth. “As stay-at-home-order became more and more a part of our daily colloquy, I decided that includes me, too. I live closer to Hot Creek and the Upper Owens than most people, but I made the conscious decision that I have to do my part to beat this damn thing as well. You wouldn’t believe what this town looks like if you saw it now; it looks more like Bodie than Mammoth. I’m one of several guides in town acknowledging that doing what is best for humanity trumps fishing, and I’m not booking immediate trips nor fishing myself. I’m in this mess, too.”

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