Balance of state waterfowl hunting season opens Saturday
The anticipated waterfowl hunting season will be fully underway Saturday with the opening of the balance of state zone.
The season always opens a week or two earlier in the northeastern zone along the Oregon border, part of which encompasses the Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. It’s been blistering there.
The northeastern zone is a major staging area for the Pacific Flyway. Waterfowl of every type seem to meet up there by the tens of thousands before heading south to their wintering grounds.
However, the hot gunning in the northeastern zone isn’t going to last. Two major components necessary to retain the birds for a while simply aren’t there: 1. Birds love to eat, and there’s a major lack of grain crops, 2. Water on which to paddle and rest.
Without those two major components, the ducks and geese won’t stay long before heading south. That can equate to a great opener for 2010.
Many ducks and geese could be found in the Delevan and Sacramento refuges on a recent drive up the Interstate 5 corridor. Large flocks of geese could be seen landing in recently harvested rice fields to feed.
There is one possible downside. With late winter and spring rain, crops were late in being planted and, therefore, late to be harvested. Many thousands of acres remain unharvested.
Yet, if you belong to a club that has had the fields harvested and has water available, you could have one of the best opening weekends in several years.
Local state and federal refuges should also provide decent shooting opportunities for the opener. Without much shot coming their way, many young birds, unaware of the danger, will easily and readily respond to calls and decoys.
Only when the birds have been shot at will they be much warier.
The season will run through Jan. 30, 2011. You can shoot all seven days a week. Duck limits may include seven mallard, no more than two hens, two pintail, and one can. The liberal goose limit is eight per day and may include six white geese, six dark geese, but no more than four white-fronted geese. Possession limit of ducks and geese is double the daily bag limit.
Port of Sacramento: Stripers come and go, chasing baitfish – the threadfin shad population. If you catch it when baitfish are in, you’ll catch stripers. Most are schoolies now, but you might find one in the low teens. Trolling a variety of minnow-imitating lures will work, as will soaking a live, jumbo minnow.
Caples Lake: The gates to the launch ramp aren’t unlocked until 7 a.m. each day. The resort closes at the end of October, and the launch ramp will be closed for the winter Nov. 1. Right now, though, the fishing is hot for brown and rainbow trout, and it’s a troller’s paradise. Haul a crawler or brown grub down no more than 20 to 30 feet, and you should limit in no time.
American River: With a short run to Sailor Bar or the Sunrise area, you can hammer small steelies. Punching out a caddis nymph fly or even a crawler or salmon egg imitation, you can really play catch and release on mostly half-pound steelhead, and there’s always the occasional 5-pounder in the mix. Just remember that if you want to keep any for the dinner table, it must be a hatchery fish, indicated with the adipose fin clipped off. The adipose fin is the tiny fin between the dorsal fin and tail. If the fin is there, it’s a wild fish and you’ll get a ticket for having it in your possession.
Folsom Lake: The lake is still dropping with a greater outflow than inflow. Still, the lake is considerably higher than the last couple of years at this time. Bass fishing remains tough. Work the deeper water regions of the main body, especially around rock piles and drop-offs, thoroughly and slowly. You’ll be making several casts and reeling in before you get bit, though.
Delta: While there are stripers moving into local waters such as the American River and Port of Sacramento, there’s a good population of bass in the region as well. It’s a fairly short run from places like Decker Island to get to places like Franks Tract. Stripers are attracted to baitfish in the area, so drifting big minnows or trolling a minnow imitator such as a Rebel or Rapala should do well. The North Fork of the Mokelumne also is holding a lot of bass. Anchor the boat or free drift with the current and let a jumbo minnow take a swim.
George deVilbiss can be reached at at GeorgesColumn@aol.com.