Audio of the disorderly discussion. | The Sacramento Bee.

The California Fish and Game Commission quickly ended a public teleconference meeting this morning that was organized to determine if the state should enforce a limited ban on sportfishing to further quell the COVID-19 outbreak.

The Sacrament Bee reports reports that the 8 a.m. meeting immediately turned to disorder after unruly callers began talking over one another, shouting racially offensive statements and arguing with commission members.

“What a joke,” one member of the public said during the meeting, responding to ongoing technical issues that the commission said was caused by a high number of callers.

The public’s response became so overwhelming, that commission members simply gave up on the emergency meeting and rescheduled it for sometime next week.

“We are very appreciative of the passion we heard from those that were able to join this morning’s call,” Commission President Eric Sklar and California Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Charlton H. Bonham jointly stated in a press release. “It is clear that the call volume was overwhelming and the technology wasn’t ready. We acknowledge that this is a challenge as we attempt to navigate new technology for meetings. We are frustrated by what happened today and are looking for a remedy now. We understand that many members of the public and media were unable to join the call and because we also understand the importance to many of you, we need to ensure that you have an opportunity to provide input.”

A fisherman holds up a monstrous, spawned-out chinook found along the Mad River. | File photo taken by Ishan Steelhead

While many of the callers were reportedly fearful that the commission planned to outright cancel sportfishing for the entire state, it was actually discussing the possibility of granting temporary authority to the CDFW, which would then work with local jurisdictions to decide whether or not to delay, restrict, or suspend the recreational fishing season in particular places.

“We also want to make it crystal clear that today’s proposed decision was not about banning fishing statewide or locally,” Sklar and Bonham stated. “We are not contemplating statewide closure. The decision is to help prepare us to work with counties and tribes to make those decisions based on their requests.”

Read the California Fish and Game Commission’s press release in its entirety:


Today’s emergency meeting of the Fish and Game Commission is being rescheduled. While the time and platform has yet to be determined, it will be delayed until next week.

Commission President Eric Sklar and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham made the following joint statement:

“We are very appreciative of the passion we heard from those that were able to join this morning’s call. It is clear that the call volume was overwhelming and the technology wasn’t ready. We acknowledge that this is a challenge as we attempt to navigate new technology for meetings. We are frustrated by what happened today and are looking for a remedy now. We understand that many members of the public and media were unable to join the call and because we also understand the importance to many of you, we need to ensure that you have an opportunity to provide input.

“We want to make sure you know that we have received a great deal of input from counties and tribes, and we are grateful for that. You can always make comment for the record at fgc@fgc.ca.gov.

“We also want to make it crystal clear that today’s proposed decision was not about banning fishing statewide or locally. We are not contemplating statewide closure. The decision is to help prepare us to work with counties and tribes to make those decisions based on their requests. We are working on a tailored and surgical approach based on local needs and knowledge. We have already received some of these requests. Today’s proposed action was an effort to become more nimble and ready to react when asked by a local entity to act.”

When the meeting is rescheduled, it will be posted on the Commission’s website, sent out via listserv and advised to media.

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission was set to discuss whether or not to temporarily grant authority to CDFW to decide whether to delay, restrict, or suspend sport or recreational fishing in order to prevent and mitigate public health risks that may arise when people travel for fishing trips or congregate while participating in available fishing opportunities. CDFW and the Commission have received requests from county representatives and local health authorities requesting delays to sport or recreational fish openers such as the Eastern Sierra trout opener scheduled for April 25, 2020. Because of overwhelming call volume, the call will be rescheduled.