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February weekend is all for youth waterfowl hunters

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Hunting season is either closed or soon to close, depending on the zone to which you travel.

However, the season isn’t closed for everybody. A special weekend is reserved for the youth of California – Feb. 5-6 to hunt waterfowl anywhere in the state.

No properties are off limits for legal hunting. State and federal refuges will be open to receive youth hunters for this special opportunity.

The reservation date is past for applying for a hunt date at a state-operated refuge. If you don’t have access to open, public land or a private club, you can hope your favorite refuge doesn’t fill and you can get in after the reservations have been processed.

Word is that most state wildlife areas are vastly underutilized for these hunts, so chances are good of getting in to hunt even without a reservation.

A youth hunter, previously known as a junior hunter, must be accompanied by an adult, but only the youth may carry a firearm and shoot.

The adult chaperone can play bird dog, retrieving downed birds or doing the “quacking” on calls to entice the birds.

While hunt opportunities are limited to the state’s youth, all other rules and regulations apply, such as bird limits, number of shot shells allowed, etc.

Crab limits
Many anglers enjoy taking a ride on a party boat out of the numerous ports along California’s coastline in hopes of putting fresh crab on the table. The season is open now, and getting limits of crab is more the rule than the exception.

The skipper and deckhand of that party boat have to know what they’re allowed to put in the box. That includes the number of crab and size restrictions, and what sex is and isn’t allowed.

None of that is the same if you crab out of your own boat.

Commercial boats, for example, aren’t allowed to keep female Dungeness crab, but you, on your boat, can.

How can you tell a female crab from a male? First, the female is smaller and less meaty. Secondly, a larger, mature female generally will have a large mass of eggs around its tail.

While it makes sense to return a female crab to the water, you aren’t required to release it from your boat.

Current fishing
It’s not spring, but the current weather pattern sure looks and feels like it, especially with weeks and weeks of rain and snow. We’re certainly not done with the winter wet stuff, so enjoy the good weather. There is good rod-bending action to be found.

American River: With a lack of any real appreciable rain the last couple of weeks, the river has dropped to a decent fishing level. Anglers just aren’t going.
If fresh-run steelhead going up the ladder into the hatchery is any indication, there are a bunch of steelies in the river. Just below the hatchery downriver to Sailor Bar, toss a salmon-roe-egg imitation or night crawler, keep it near the bottom, and chances are good you’re going to tie into a big, fighting steelhead. Be sure to have your steelhead report card with you.

Jenkinson Lake: Shore fishing around the cove at the second dam usually is red hot, but it’s been slow so far this year. The lake is full, which bodes well, and if it’s full now, it will remain that way for a while. Trollers, however, are nailing mackinaw up to four pounds by hauling a Needlefish.

Camp Far West: No problem launching if you want to go for a day of boating. The lake is full and going over the spillway. Boating conditions are great; fishing isn’t. You might find a bass here and there but nothing to write home about.

Lake Oroville: It was in good shape last year but dropped radically over the summer. It’s already looking good for this spring, more than 65 percent, so what might happen by late summer remains to be seen. Fog on this water has deterred most anglers from putting boats on the lake. Those who have, however, have found a decent bass bite by tossing tubes, worms and jigs in purple or brown. Work slow. Fish aren’t highly active, and you have to spark their interest to get bit.

Folsom Lake: The good news is that not many people are out there trying, so if you get your boat on the water, you might not have any competition. Drop-shotting a Robo Worm has produced a bite, and the bass are hanging out along creek channel edges. Even those drop-shotting in the North Fork are getting bit by a king salmon now and then.

Port of Sacramento: If you can get near the water of the Port or Deep Water Channel, the region is stuffed with stripers. Even from shore, you can drift a jumbo minnow under a bobber. Trollers are nailing their share, as are those jigging, but live bait generally will easily outfish both.

Get all the way down to the mouth of the Deep Water Channel, then switch to shrimp baits or a gob of pileworms. There has been a pretty good sturgeon bite there and further downstream in the Rio Vista area.

Collins Lake: Leave the boat at home. Shore anglers are hammering trout just about anywhere they cast a line, and a good many rainbows are up to 3½ pounds. Put Power Bait or a crawler off a sliding sinker rig. The lake is full and going over the dam.

Contact George deVilbiss at GeorgesColumn@aol.com.