Denis Peirce: End of duck season
The duck hunting season is going out with a bang this weekend. We are finally getting the kind of cold storms that can drive more birds down from Oregon and Washington but also from the grain fields of Idaho. The main factor that moves birds into the Sacramento Valley is the small ponds and bogs freezing over to our north and east. With tracking collars the bird migrations can be confirmed.
The distances these birds will travel without a GPS is remarkable. I knew that they came down the Williamette Valley in Oregon but only recently was I made aware that they will feed on the corn fields in Idaho and then fly across Nevada and over the Sierra to get to the valley below us. It takes three to five days for them to make the journey from Idaho. Hunters can tell which birds are recent arrivals due to the lack of fat on their bodies. It takes a week or two for them to fatten back up in a rice field.
The difficulty for the local duck population has been the lack of water due to the dry weather. We did get birds coming down starting in mid December but this cold weather pattern will bring a lot more in for the end of the season. Next week they are home free.
This wet weather has most anglers indoors staying dry and warm. Once we are willing to go back out there are some options in our area to choose from. Englebright has been planted with a lot of these fish in the lower third of the lake. There have been some good sized fish taken up the lake. I am guessing that the water color will be changing dramatically to shades of brown in the not too distant future.
Anglers at Lake Oroville are taking some of the landlocked salmon but the bite has been slow. Good anglers have had to work to put two or three in the boat for a day on the water. The bait of choice has been a white hootchie trolled behind a dodger, 25 to 65 feet down. The best spots have been points on the main body of the lake. The salmon have not been up the river arms in any numbers. All of this may change due to these storms.
I have been concerned that last summer’s fire that burned the Middle Fork Feather River drainage would end up turning the lake a chocolate milk brown. A torrential warm rain could have been disastrous. The current low snow level on top of previously dampened soil might prove to be the ideal situation. Hopefully the grasses will come back rapidly.
The only paved launch ramp has been at Bidwell due to the low lake level. The lake has not risen significantly yet. So far this storm has only brought up the lake level about six inches. What will improve the angling will be the incoming water from any size creek feeding into the lake. Incoming water is where the food will be. A standard axiom for reservoir bass anglers is, “The best bass bite is on a rising lake level.” Look for the lake to start to rise as the snow melts or we get warmer storms.
Bullard’s Bar continues to put out small kokanee but lots of them. I heard an interesting theory on the small size of kokanee in Bullard’s Bar. I thought it was the quantity of fish versus the food source. The number of fish being the critical variable. Guide Justin Leonard told me that the water volume is the factor that determines food availability. Kokanee are plankton feeders and the greater the water surface area and volume the more food there is. Wet years with lots of water translates into bigger fish. Dry years make for smaller fish, other factors being equal.
The lower Yuba continues to fish well for the fly anglers. On sunny days the adult skwala stoneflies are active. On cold rainy days they hide in the riverside brush. The overcast and rain are good for the mayfly hatches which continue despite the weather. For the angler the mayflies ride the current for a longer time as they hatch. Leaving the water surface is a function of getting their wings dry. The trout get a longer time to come up to the bug when they spot them. With good waders and rain gear you can be quite comfortable on the river even in the rain.
A good use of our indoor time can be tying flies or maintaining our gear for the upcoming spring fishing.
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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