Drifting is a means to hunt waterfowl, and it works
Most hunters know it’s illegal to use a motor to sneak up on a raft of ducks. However, using a boat can be a tremendous method for a successful waterfowl hunt.
And, with all the rain the north state has received, it’s a method that almost immediately afforded additional areas for unattached hunters.
Most large watercraft won’t cut it. Anything you can manhandle will work best. A small aluminum boat or scull boat will do the trick. Decorate it with a camouflage such as reed panels, and you’re set to drift a waterway in pursuit of ducks. You can do some great hunting while drifting, but most will need a motor to return to the point of origin.
There are sloughs throughout the north state that provide great drift-hunting opportunities. My dad and I regularly drifted the Sacramento Slough.
Use the motor to find the birds. Spot the birds, line up the boat with them, cut the motor and get down out of sight. Let the boat drift toward the raft of birds. Done properly, the birds won’t have a clue you’re coming up on them. Don’t make a great deal of scraping noise shifting position in the boat, something that is radically magnified in the water.
Sluicing the birds while they’re rafted in a bunch isn’t the least bit sporting. As your watercraft nears them, they’ll probably start getting a little nervous, and when you come into view, they’ll probably want to change locations. If you work it right, you and your partner can pretty well pick which duck you want in your bag.
Your shooting will have little to no effect on birds a little distance away. Reset your position, get out of sight and make another drift toward other birds downstream.
With the 2012-13 season winding down, you have a few days to give this a try.
It’s been cold in the mornings, but with a mostly clear sky, fishing opportunities in the lower elevations are almost limitless.
Port of Sacramento: One angler recently told me he launched his boat in the Port of Sacramento. After firing up his motor, he turned on the fish finder and it lit up better than a Christmas tree. He turned off the motor and started throwing swim baits. With five casts, he caught five stripers. The largest, right there at the docks, was a 10-pounder.
Others are drifting, trolling and jigging everywhere and doing well. The port’s water is good, though you can’t get any closer than 100 feet to the docks. Go down the channel, for instance at the fertilizer plant, and fish around the docks. There’s good action there.
Stripers are available. Wade through enough schoolie-size fish, and you’ll eventually tie into a lunker cruising these waters.
American River: There is an absolute great number of steelies in the river, and flows now make for tremendous opportunities. Some anglers work the basin waters above the Hazel Avenue Bridge. It can get crowded, but the catching has been good. Get on the bank just below the hatchery itself and numerous points downriver, drift the deeper holes and channels, and you’ll get bit. Just make sure whatever you’re throwing stays near the bottom. Sure, you’re going to lose some gear, but you’re also going to get bit. Glo-bugs, Spin-N-Glows, night crawlers, salmon eggs and roe are going to be your top bets.
Folsom Lake: The water level is near 60 percent of capacity, so you can launch and high-ball on the water. Sitting on the bank in your most comfortable chair, you can put a limit of trout on the stringer. Several limits have been seen by those on the bank at Granite Bay, the best around the boat ramp area and at Beak’s Bite. Most of those caught have been recent planters, but there also are holdovers taking the bait. You can put your bait on the bottom with a sliding sinker or suspend it under a bobber. Both work. Crawlers and eggs will be your best bet.
Trollers have been working the top water in front of the dam. The top 10 feet has been the cruising region for trout. Almost any flashy little lure or a small Rapala has been attracting a bite.
Bass are in their usual winter lethargic mode. The bite is really slow, but if your heart is set on bass, work to 20 feet deep around drop-offs with plastics, and you might find a bite. Just work them slow.
Boca Reservoir: The road up to the dam is plowed, so there’s plenty of parking space available. The lake is frozen over and safe enough for foot traffic. The lake is just over 40 percent of capacity, so the deeper water in front of the dam is where most anglers are boring holes in the ice. It’s a fairly easy walk down the rocks to the ice. I’ve done best with Pautzke Red Label, Premium eggs here.
Caples Lake: This lake up Highway 88 also is frozen over with hikers having to bore through three feet of ice to get to the water. The best action has been in the spillway area and dam region. Drop a worm, Power Bait or crawler to the bottom, and crank it up a turn or two. Fishing for trout through the ice has been downright good.
Collins Lake: This lake behind Marysville is brim full, and anglers are picking up bass, catfish and trout. They had a holiday planting period of trout, and holdovers are still being caught. They’ll restart their annual planting program in another couple of months. One angler, soaking Power Bait while anchored, caught eight trout and even a five-pound bass. The campground area and dam region are yielding nice stringers of ’bows, again for anglers soaking Power Bait.
Lake Amador: They’re still planting 600 pounds of their cut-bow trout every weekday, and many of those being caught are the big, excess spawners. The best news is that most of the big fish being caught are being fought by those standing on shore. While the biggest fish last week topped 14 pounds, a couple of 12-pounders were caught and even a couple eight to 10 pounds. There’s no problem launching a boat. The lake is now 10 feet from spilling, and both ramps are in the water. If you troll or fish from shore, stay shallow. Use a bobber or cast-a-bubble.
Camp Far West: Amazing. Not long ago, the lake was a big mud puddle, down very low. Today, the lake is full to the brim. However, fishing is slow because of the lack of water clarity. As river levels drop due to the lack of new rainfall, water entering the lake won’t roil the water and the lake slowly will clear, and that will improve the bass fishery tremendously.
Contact George deVilbiss at GeorgesColumn@aol.com.