SACRAMENTO (AP) — California has delayed the start of spring trout season in three rural counties where local officials are concerned out-of-towners could spread the coronavirus to residents.

Charlton Bonham, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife, announced Tuesday that rivers, streams and lakes in Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties would be closed to fishing until May 31.

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“After talking with the county representatives, we agreed this was a necessary step toward being responsive to local needs in this public health emergency,” Bonham said in a statement. “These counties asked for our help, and we responded.”

Opening day is celebrated among anglers as “fishmas” and draws thousands of people to the eastern Sierra. It will remain as scheduled for April 25 in other counties, officials said.

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The Fish and Game Commission last week voted to grant emergency authority to Bonham to postpone the season at the request of counties.

Some opponents of the limited ban questioned why more regulations were needed when the whole state was under a stay-at-home order. Others said the bans are unnecessary because social distancing rules are easily followed while fishing.

But local officials said in some rural towns there’s no place for guests to stay because many hotels are closed and short-term rental properties are being used by essential workers.

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