Overall waterfowl population drops in California

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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There are waterfowl that find the conditions in California to their liking so they take up permanent residence. Others migrate to northern breeding grounds in Canada and Alaska.

To ensure a somewhat decent count of waterfowl populations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will count birds in Canada and Alaska. The results will be available this month.

California biologists and pilots have completed the annual waterfowl survey for birds that have taken up permanent residence, and the results were just made available.

The total count is down. Last year, there were 558,600 ducks just hanging out and having little baby quackers. This year’s total amounted to 524,500. The decrease is mainly attributed to lower numbers in gadwall and cinnamon teal.

On the good side, the most abundant duck in California, the greenhead mallard, increased 21 percent, from 314,700 in 2011 to 381,900 this year.

The survey covered nesting habitat in and around northeastern California — the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, Suisun Marsh, Napa-Sonoma Marshes, the Delta and even some foothill areas.

These counts, combined with the results of the USFWS counts, will set the framework for season dates and bag limits set by the feds and followed closely by the state.

Is sale legal?

I see it all the time on advertising websites. Someone inherited a bear skin rug or a hunter got tired of his big elk mount or 4-by-4 buck on his wall.

So, it gets advertised. Is it legal to sell?

No. Under state law, it’s illegal to sell, trade or barter that item. Additionally, it’s illegal to purchase that critter. It also doesn’t matter whether that animal was harvested in California or legally taken in another state or country.

So, you have a mount or bear hide you no longer want. What do you do?

You can give it away. Perhaps a museum or service club would take it off your hands.

Current fishing

It’s the Fourth of July holiday week. While other states are baking in temperatures way above normal, we’ve had a fair and mild summer.

Just about every waterway throughout the north state is going to be loaded for this holiday week — most for water recreation. Fishing success will be down, but the holiday week will end and pressure will return to normal with better catching to come.

Salmon: There’s been a continuing great bite at Bodega Bay for those riding a party boat or launching boats at Doran or Westside parks. There are lots of salmon. Those sailing out under the Golden Gate are finding salmon anywhere from N Buoy up to Point Reyes. Most are up to 18 pounds, and there are big smokers in the mix.

Salmon have a tendency to move around, and those going out Noyo Harbor at Fort Bragg find the bite good one day, slower the next.

Loon Lake: The lake level is excellent, still nearly 90 percent. It’s also a lake that’s at a high-enough elevation where you won’t fight a bunch of water recreationists. Trollers are limiting by hauling a grub or worm behind a dodger.
Stay in the top 15 feet of water, and you should have no trouble getting bit.

Folsom Lake: While catches of trout and king salmon remain a decent option, it’s going to be doubly tough this week. Expect the water to be heavily roiled with recreationists. If you’re willing to fish the first couple of hours at the crack of dawn, you might get in some quiet fishing time, and chances will be good of getting into a bite.

The bass bite remains decent, too, fishing off points. Bass are hanging in 15-20 feet of water. Early mornings, topwater gear could get bit, as will cranks and swimbaits. Otherwise, drop-shot plastics.

Camp Far West: Regardless where you point your boat, it will be impossible to get away from water skiers and jet ski-type watercraft. The only option is to get out early. There are several small bass — one to 1½ pounds — that are willing to grab plastics. A variety of colors will entice a bite. If you’re staying the night, fire up the lantern, soak stinky stuff, and you could pick up a nice stringer of catfish.

Hell Hole Reservoir: The lake level is excellent, still more than 80 percent. Head to the upper end, troll or soak eggs, a crawler or Power Bait, and you could get into a trout bite. Troll around the Powerhouse, down 40 feet or so, which means downrigger time, and you could limit on 15-inch kokanee. You can haul deepwater gear around the dam and pick up a mackinaw.

Lake Amador: There’s still a wayward trout being caught, but few are trying for the holdovers. Trout are looking for cooler water so head to the upper end, where water is coming into the lake. There are bucketmouths going eight pounds, grabbing plastics. If you’re camping, pick up chicken liver or slice up a hot dog and put it on the hook after the sun goes down. Chances are you’re going to nail a catfish.

Lake Camanche: Good for day use this week if you don’t have camping reservations. They have a new campground, too. Eagle Beach campground is located on the east side of the peninsula in the Rabbit Creek arm. It’s a boat-in campsite so forget trying to get in with your RV. There are three single and four double sites available.

Despite it being summer, decent trout catches are being reported. Two anglers fished around the dam-causeway, hauling Rapalas, and showed off a hefty stringer of trout, the largest hitting just under six pounds. Most anglers, however, are soaking Power Bait in chartreuse, rainbow and garlic, along with a nightcrawler, down a good 40 feet.

Lake Pardee: The lake is still in excellent condition, only three feet or so below the spill. Most trout catches are being tallied by trollers. Some are working the main body between the river mouth, the face of the dam and in front of the rock wall. Others deadhead up the river and troll around Twin Coves, Deer Island and Columbia Gulch. Trout and kokanee are being tallied, and trollers are setting gear anywhere from 30-60 feet.

This lake also has a tremendous bass population, overlooked by many anglers. The south end is kicking out big numbers of smallies, and some are hitting four pounds. There’s also a largemouth in the mix. Cranks, swimbaits and plastics should get you well bit.

Contact George deVilbiss at