Waterfowl season opens Oct. 20; is your call tuned?

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Ever have a flock of birds looking like they want to take a close look at your dekes, but as soon as you give the first quack on your call they turn tail and head away? Don’t feel unique. It’s happened to all of us.

In many cases, hightailing birds is due to our inability to sound like a real duck. In other cases, it might not be you. It might be the call. Duck calls need to be tuned occasionally. Several environmental factors will affect the sound of your call.

When you took it hunting, you were in a variety of conditions, and I’ll lay odds there were times that rain ran right through it.

How did you store it at home? Did it stay dry? Simple humidity will affect it.

More than likely, your brand-new call came with instructions. More than likely, too, those instructions are long gone. Mine are nowhere to be found. Those instructions probably included troubleshooting tips.

The opening date for our region, mainly the balance of the state, is Oct. 20.

While there isn’t much great hunting until major storms move into the north state, waterfowl hunters will still hunker down in blinds or tulle patches with a slew of decoys, quacking away on callers on a blue-bird day, hoping to attract a stupid duck.

If you’re one of the many who will go out on opening day, chances are good you’ve been stockpiling shot shells and readying much of your gear.

Most of us don’t give much thought to the calls we’ll have hooked onto a lanyard bouncing off our chests, but that call can be just as important as your shotgun.

They need to be cleaned and tuned occasionally if you want to have the best chance of convincing a duck you’re one of them and to come on in.

Pull it out. Scare the dickens out of the neighborhood and give it a healthy quack.

Oh, no sound at all? Pull the two parts apart. More than likely, you’ll find the cork and reed have disappeared. You might find a new cork and reed, but you may have to replace the whole call.

If the call doesn’t sound right, take it apart. Corks deteriorate and need to be replaced.

Some wedges are rubber, which also deteriorates or gets so hard it’s no longer useable. Or, the reed becomes bent and doesn’t sound recognizable to a duck. Replace the reed.

Every once in awhile, the call starts OK but stops on its own. Again, take it apart. A foreign object, perhaps a small clump of dirt or a bug, is trapped between the reed and sound board. Get rid of the object, and you should be good to go, but test the call.

So, with the waterfowl season just over a month away and other zones opening in early October, check your calls now.

If you really want to test them, go to a park where there are ducks. Try talking to them. You can learn a lot listening to them and imitating their talk, too.

Current fishing

Suisun Bay: When the wind doesn’t blow, fishing can be good for stripers and sturgeon. Decent catches of each are being taken by bait dunkers throughout Suisun Bay and the Carquinez Straits. The latest lunker was a legal 70-inch humpback that weighed 103.3 pounds. The successful angler that outfought this monster used pile worms at the mouth of Montezuma Slough. Launching at Martinez yields a short run to any prime fishing area, including the Mothball Fleet, which can provide protection from wind if it blows.

Ocean: In the San Francisco region, salmon are moving ever closer to the “gate” with the prime water from Muir Beach to Double Point. While it’s been tough to tally a limit, it’s a solid fish to 1½ per rod with most of the fish making up the difference in size. In the Bodega Bay region, salmon action has been hit and miss, though great for rock cod. Salmon are scattered, looking for their rivers to make their annual spawning runs. In the San Pablo Bay area, if there are strong tides, the striper action is good.

Lake Berryessa: Bass fishing is yet to turn hot, but you can still do well tossing plastics off the numerous points. Trout are down 60-100 feet. Troll a Triple Teaser or Needlefish and a limit is possible. Crappie are just beginning to show at the back of coves and around docks. Catfishing remains red hot.

Feather River: In the river section below Thermalito, look for shoulder-to-shoulder action on weekends. During the week, it’s not so crowded and you don’t fight for a piece of water. The action has been excellent with most anglers coming away with big loads of salmon, including a great many at 20 pounds-plus. One huge smoker was just under 40 pounds. A simple bead above a hook is all you need.

Lake Camanche: Trout triers are getting their fair share of trout. As the temperature cools, it’s only going to improve. The best action is at night, anchoring near the dam or spillway areas and dropping Power Bait or Crave down 35 feet-plus. Pardee has been releasing cooler water, so upriver areas from the bridge to Arkansas Bend, trolling or drifting, has been effective using eggs, crawlers and chartreuse Power Bait. Use crankbaits in a shad pattern around dropoffs and stickups. Midday, use four-inch purple leeches or lizards on the rocky points and ledges. For top action, work the shady sides.

Lake Pardee: It’s worth the trip. Kokanee, while starting to turn for their spawning mode, remains the top action for trollers with the most productive area being Twin Coves and up. Nearly any kokanee-type offering, down 50-120 feet, will mean a strike off the downrigger ball. Trout are slamming the same rigs but in the area of the dam and along the barrel line at the south end of the lake, down 30-50 feet.

The East and West Forks of the Carson River are producing great catches of trout with some rainbows hitting five pounds. Absolute stealth is the key. Water is low and clear, and the trout are easily spooked. Long rods will outperform shorter ones where you can get to the water without being on the edge. Start fishing the undercuts at the bank and work out toward the center of the water; when you take a step, tip-toe. Crawlers and salmon eggs have accounted for the majority of fish. Flies work well in early mornings and late afternoons. A Parachute Adams or mosquito should entice plenty of rises.

Shasta Lake: Surface temperature is warm, 79-82 degrees, depending what part of the lake you’re on. Now that most water recreationists have left, the fish catching has turned great. Bass and trout are being taken in great numbers. You need to cover a lot of water, watch your scope, and find the concentrations of fish and bait fish. Limits of trout-salmon to 3½ pounds can easily be taken by dropping 25-50 feet with leadcore line or downriggers. Haul a crawler behind dodgers. A variety of lures will work, such as a HumDinger or Slim Willie. Having a 15 to 20-fish day on bass is nothing unusual, but few lunkers. Most are to two pounds, but an occasional five-pounder can be found. Work a darthead down as much as 50 feet.

Contact George deVilbiss at