Waterfowl hunting season mostly over in north state — with disappointing results

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Last year’s waterfowl season found hunters scratching their heads wondering what happened to the weather. It was tough hunting due to the lack of foul weather that can make waterfowl hunting great. Bag limits for the 2011-12 season were downright poor.

Hunters for the 2012-13 season are equally perplexed. In the first part of the season, in October and early November, hunters were met with ideal weather conditions. Problem is, a great deal of that foul weather didn’t stop. Fields in the north state were flooded.

Migrating birds could pick and choose where they wanted to go. You’re flooded little area, replete with decoys, would do little to convince a flock of real birds to come in.

While some water is a good thing, there is the possibility of too much water. Early in the season, the only places with water are gun clubs and the state’s federal and state refuges.

Additionally, the birds this time of year are much savvier in the ways of the hunter. For self-preservation purposes, they are easily spooked. They can be much more wary, a little harder to convince that you’re calling is something they want to listen to.

Have you seen a flight of birds rapidly flare away after you blow on the call? That’s a quick indication they’re easily spooked. They can be spooked by seeing the shine of your face, by not liking the pattern of your decoys, and by your calling. When you’re saying, “C’mon in, the water’s fine,” they might be hearing, “Get outta here.”

In fact, it’s nothing unusual for birds to spook at the first quack of a real duck, much less flaring at your imitation. Getting a bird to react to your call can be a difficult task at this part of the season.

The waterfowl hunting season is mostly over. There are some season openings, such as white-front geese and black Brandt hunting availability, but not many.

If you were having trouble getting birds to come to your decoys, there are a couple of things you might want to try. One is to just flat shut up. Try not calling at all. The birds will see your decoys. Live birds aren’t always talkative as they paddle around in the water. If they want to land, they will, without any coaxing from you.

Secondly, toss the quacker in with the hunting supplies and go strictly with the pintail whistle. A single peep to a series of light peeps can do wonders. I’ve sucked in pintails, mallards, widgeon, teal and woodies with peeps on a pintail whistle. Another factor in birds getting spooked might just be your dark decoy anchor cord. Try a heavier weighted monofilament fishing line. Works as well and is nearly invisible.

Keep a few decoys in the blind with you. When the birds have passed by without much of a reaction, toss a decoy as high into the air as you can. Even if the flock has passed by, one or more members will see that and interpret it as a single coming in for a landing.

That single event can convince the whole flock to make a hard turn and come in for a landing to your dekes.


Current fishing


Boring holes through frozen lakes is a favored fishing activity this time of year, but with the warming afternoons, it’s highly recommended to not try getting on any lake surface. While it may look good, ice quality has deteriorated to the point it can be dangerous. The heavy storms hitting the Midwest will eventually return to our region, so hopefully, you’re taking advantage of the fair weather and getting in some quality fishing time now.

It’s time to go through the tackle box and make sure you have enough hooks and weights, maybe re-spool the reel with fresh line and give the working mechanism of the reel a dab or two of fresh grease.

Lake Pardee: The closed sign will come down Thursday, Feb. 14. The re-opening is highly anticipated by anglers all over the north state. On that day, you can get a campsite, kick back and relax. Friday morning, Feb. 15, fishing for the 2013 season will begin with many anglers at the water well before the sun rises. The lake, as usual, will be planted with rainbows — private plants and from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Sacramento River: Sturgeon fishing in and around Collinsville is always a hot topic this time of year because good numbers are caught. Collinsville is just downriver from Rio Vista. Get the anchor down, and any sturgeon offering — the three shrimp baits, eel or salmon roe — is going to attract these big fish. Remember the new rules and regulations. First, how you measure a fish has changed. With the fish on its side, measure from the tip of the nose to the inside V notch of the tail. A legal sturgeon is now 40 inches minimum and 60 inches maximum. Also, you can no longer use the loop snare to tail the fish. The loop snare, commonly used to subdue and control the fish, has been outlawed. Lastly, two-hook setups are no-no’s as well. You’re allowed one barbless hook.

Lake Amador: They’re still planting big numbers — like 600 pounds every weekday — of their Donaldson strain of cutthroat-rainbows. The numbers in the lake are increasing because the trout apparently don’t like this cold weather any more than we do. Limits have been uncommon. Just about everybody tossing bait or lures is tallying a couple of fish. Those being caught, however, have been running three to six pounds. If the bite is off because of the cold, it might be because the fish have changed locations in the water column to find temperature more to their preference. If you have a boat, watch your scope closely to where you mark fish. If you fish from shore around the dam-spillway area, work different depths until you get bit. Don’t wait for the wayward fish to stumble across your offering. Find them.

Bullards Bar: The lake is all but full, and bass fishing, especially for spotted, has been tremendous. Senkos are attracting well, as are a variety of swim baits. While you might have to wade through a bunch of 12- to 14-inchers, bass to nearly nine pounds are being caught.

Camp Far West: The more days we go without rain, the more this lake will clear and the fishing will turn to tremendous. It’s still muddy, but it must be clearing, as the catching rate is going up. Work the sunny shorelines, where the water temperature will be a little higher. The bass are still mainly small, but Brush Hogs worked as much as 20 feet deep should get you bit.

Contact George deVilbiss at