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'Fishmas' canceled | How the delay of fishing season is affecting the Eastern Sierra

Mono County alone generates $603 million annually through tourism, but right now everything is essentially closed to outsiders.

BRIDGEPORT, Calif. — There’re no boats at Convict Lake, the gates are closed at Bodie State Park and no one is trying to summit Mt. Whitney. 

Tourism is by far the number one revenue source for the Eastern Sierra. Mono County alone generates $603 million annually through tourism, but right now, everything is essentially closed to outsiders.

The coronavirus pandemic is impacting California’s economy in many ways, but in the rural communities of the Eastern Sierra, the coronavirus impacted a very important day known as Fishmas. 

“Fishmas is the opening day of trout season. It’s a time a lot of people look forward to," Misti Sullivan said. 

Sullivan and her husband Tim own Twin Lakes Resort in Bridgeport, a popular tourist location and place to fish and camp.

“Normally, we would have people who would stay two or three weeks at a time,” Sullivan said.

This year, Fishmas landed on April 25. It was opening day of trout season for all of California except for three Eastern Sierra counties; Mono, Inyo and Alpine. Days before Fishmas, supervisors and health directors in all three counties jointly requested that California Fish and Wildlife delay the opening of trout season for them specifically.  

“I believe the supervisors in Inyo and Mono County fought to delay the season because they were worried about the number of people coming to the area,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan was correct.

Back in April, county supervisors discussed how Fishmas would impact the rural region and, more importantly, how it would impact the small rural hospitals. Mono County Supervisor John Peters says the delay of Fishmas gave the counties time to strengthen hospitals and come up with a plan to welcome back tourists. And now, they're ready to reopen. In fact, Peters even picked a date. 

“We want to set a time of no later than Memorial Day," Peters said. "That will give the Department of Fish and Wildlife time to do what they need to do to get open.” 

The state listened when a supervisor asked to delay fishing season, the question now, will the state listen now that they ask to start fishing season back up again? 

In a way, the Eastern Sierra is asking the same question as the rest of the state. “When will California reopen.” The only difference, the Eastern Sierra is asking it from the other side of the state's largest mountain range.

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