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Denis Peirce: Duck hunting weather

Denis Peirce

The storms are lined up out over the Pacific and it looks like a week of continuous weather. This is not conducive to good fishing in the near term but it is what we need for the upcoming season.

What this weather portends is the waterfowl migration. Tom and Andy Moreno have a large pond in Penn Valley that is host to most types of waterfowl on a seasonal basis. The most predictable visitors are a flock of Canada geese that arrive in October. The flock has about 300 birds. The way Tom knows that these are the same birds each year is the flock has one barnacle goose. Tom has been seeing this one bird for the last five seasons. These geese are grazers and they keep six acres of lawn mowed for the winter. They also feed at Western Gateway Park in wet weather when the humans aren’t active. You might notice them in many of the local pastures. They return to sleep on the pond each evening.

The most notable ducks this year on Tom’s pond are the redhead diving ducks. He has a group of up to 70 birds currently operating from his pond. This is the first appearance of this species in five years on his pond. These ducks are very rarely seen in California.

Another change this week is the arrival of the creek ducks. The local mallards tend to spend their nights on Squirrel Creek, sleeping on the quieter waters. With this much water flooding the creek bottoms they will move to the pond for a quiet night’s sleep.

I checked in with guide Justin Leonard who has been hunting the rice fields of the valley below us. This weather has the birds flying low. He has had moderate luck guiding clients for the last few weeks. What has not happened yet is the main waterfowl migration from the north. The impetus for the birds to arrive is hard freezing weather in Washington and Oregon. When the ponds and other small waters freeze over the ducks move south looking for better conditions. Currently the low temps have not frozen enough water to drive all the birds south. Justin commented that there are big numbers on the rivers to our north.

Another indicator of the southward migration is the Tule Lake area on the Oregon border. The drought had this area dry instead of the swamp that would attract the ducks. Hopefully this cold weather system will produce the conditions to bring the birds down to the Sacramento Valley. In a typical California waterfowl season, the opening in October features local non-migrating birds. As the season progresses some geese and ducks will move in until the weather changes to our north. Normally this occurs sometime from late November to early December. The later migration this year is a weather anomaly. The season ends on the last day of January.

If you are looking for an outing for out of town guests this holiday season, consider a day trip to the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area. It is an hour away, north of Yuba City. It is 9,100 acres of waterfowl habitat with literally a million birds present on any given day. There are driving and walking trails to see more birds in one day than you will see in a year. For more information go to the website: Gray Lodge Wildlife Area (ca.gov) .


For the anglers looking for waters to fish, Englebright Lake is a possibility depending on the snow level. A low snow level will not put as much mud into the water. In the last 10 days I received a couple of good reports of trout feeding on the surface at the upper end of the lake. They were eating small black insects on the surface. Justin Leonard was on the lake Wednesday and saw some interesting conditions. The lowest portion of the lake near the dam had 48 degree water with 1.5 feet of visibility. The majority of the lake had chocolate-milk water at 45 degrees. The upper third of the lake was clear with five to six feet of visibility and 50 degree water, and surface feeding trout. For sure the conditions are changing but depending on the run off there is a chance of a place to fish.

I also think the rising rivers in the valley will put the sturgeon on the move. A good sign for the future. All this said, a spot by a warm fire is an alluring thought.

Merry Christmas to all!

Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com


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