Waterfowl season quickly approaching, nice weather and all

Opening day is Oct. 6 for ducks and geese in Northeast Zone
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Despite summer-like daytime temperatures and with hardly a cloud in sight, many hunters are eagerly awaiting the opening bell for the state’s waterfowl season.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve participated for years or are going for the first time.

Waterfowl hunters, without a doubt, are a special breed. How many people do you know who pray for rain and strong wind and, when those conditions occur, don somewhat stay-dry gear with an ear-to-ear grin and hunker down in a blind or tulles?

Those conditions couldn’t make a waterfowl hunter any happier, but calm weather won’t prevent hunters from heading to their favorite field hoping to convince a duck to come into the decoys.

Whether it’s one bird or a flock, it’s always a thrill to “quack” or “honk” on the call and see a bird make a 90-degree turn to look over your dekes and then cup its wings as it comes in for a landing.

While the state harbors a few thousand “local” ducks and geese year-round, the greatest number of the migratory flocks is still up in Canada and Alaska. It will take nasty weather up north, mainly heavy snow that will cover the birds’ regular feeding grounds, to convince birds to head south.

Eventually, ducks and geese taking up winter residency in California will increase from the thousands to the millions.

The two zones used mostly by those in the Sacramento-south Placer County regions are the Northeast Zone and the Balance of State Zone. The Northeast Zone is always the early hunt that covers the area near the Oregon border and places such as the Klamath River. The opener there is generally red hot, as there are numerous birds and no shot has been thrown their way since last season.

Opening dates are quickly approaching, and nobody will dispute those dates and the bag limits are liberal:

Northeast Zone: Duck season opens Oct. 6 and runs through Jan. 18. The duck limit will be seven total birds, all of which can be greenhead mallards or scaup. However, you can possess no more than two hen mallards, two pintails, one canvasback or two redheads.

Goose season in the upper part of the state runs from Oct. 6 to Jan. 13. The limit is eight daily with no more than six white geese, six dark geese or two large honkers. The possession limit is double the daily limit.

Balance of State Zone: This zone can get complicated. Duck season runs from Oct. 20 to Jan. 27. The limit is seven total birds, all of which can be greenhead mallards or scaup. You can possess no more than two hen mallards, two pintails, one canvasback or two redheads.

There are three season dates for geese: Oct. 6 through Jan. 27 for the early season, for large Canadians only; Oct. 20 through Jan. 27 for the regular season, including specs and snows; and Feb. 16 through Feb. 20 for specs and snows only.

The daily goose limit will be eight, including no more than six white or six dark geese.

As usual, the possession limit will be double the daily bag limit.

For information, consult the Department of Fish and Game’s Web site or pick up a copy of the regulations summary for waterfowl hunting.

Current fishing

Lake Almanor: Fishing conditions are just about ideal. However, the catching part is considerably slower than normal for this time of year. A major part of the problem is an overabundance of Japanese Pond Smelt. On the scope, you’ll find areas of the lake with tens of millions of the little bait fish. Oftentimes, a fish will regurgitate a number of smelt right after it’s netted.

Some anglers are anchoring in the area of A-Frame along the peninsula and others at Big Springs, just outside the mouth of Big Springs and in Lake Cove.

There’s limited success for those soaking baits. Most of the trolling is occurring along the east shore. A threaded night crawler or rubber worm is attracting nice rainbows, but a lure such as a Rainbow Runner seems to be out-fishing the crawlers.

When you hook up, the ’bows are really nice, including many at three pounds-plus. Our largest in three trips hit 4¼ pounds.

Local waters: Get your anchor down and get your spinner off a spreader in the water. Salmon fishing in the Sacramento River has been outstanding from the confluence of the Feather River at Verona downriver to Clarksburg. Just get your spinner out there, and set your rod. When it doubles up, you’ll have a nice, big and probably bright silver salmon playing tug of war with you.

Ocean waters: Salmon are in various moods for staging their run into the river system. One day, they might be near the Golden Gate Bridge; other days, there’s nothing to be found. One day, boats may limit on salmon; the next day, it’s tough to put fish in the boat at all if they pick the wrong spot. Catch it on the right day, and you can limit on big, bright Kings.

San Pablo Bay: Sturgeon fishing actually is decent in the upper end of the bay around the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, China Camp and the Pumphouse. It’s the time of year, however, when you might have to fight off unwanted critters such as Kingfish, starry flounder and crab, but you can wade through them and nail a sturgeon.

Feather River Canyon: Highway 70 has reopened with no restrictions since the Chips Fire is over. While you can see fire damage down to Highway 70 at Caribou Crossing, Caribou Road has reopened and camping is allowed in the region. It’s the time of year that river fishing in the Caribou-Belden area should be outstanding, with bait or flies.

Deer Creek: There are so many access points to Deer Creek along Highway 32, and it’s so under-visited by anglers. The stream is in perfect flow for some of the year’s best fishing. Eggs, worms and flies should get you a limit of pan-sized rainbows in little time.

Ice House Reservoir: With cooling nighttime temperatures, the water is cooling, and the catching success rate is rising. You still need to get down 25-35 feet with a threaded crawler or two-inch grub. As the water continues to cool, keep adjusting your depth. The fish will get closer and closer to the surface.

Folsom Lake: Trout-salmon action is limited. Bassing isn’t even all that great, but drop-shotting worms off points and good-sized rock piles should get you bit. Stay with shad or crawdad patterns and colors.

Contact George deVilbiss at