Hunting opens this weekend in Balance of State Zone

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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The Department of Fish and Game has estimated more than 50,000 shotgunners visited the fields in 2010, hoping to bag a duck or goose for the dinner table.

The northeastern zone for waterfowl hunting opened Oct. 8, areas such as the Klamath wetlands. Good gunning traditionally is found in these northern regions but isn’t popular with many in the South Placer County population because of the distance.

However, the season that opens Saturday, Oct. 22 — the Balance of State Zone, which comprises the majority of the north state — is highly popular, and hunters have been chomping at the bit to get started.

But most waterfowl hunters know that when the season opens, the gunning isn’t all that great. There are local birds winging around, but the greatest number of ducks and geese are still throughout Canada, Washington and Oregon, and it will take several strong storms to drive them south. In some cases, they won’t budge from their comfortable digs until they either run out of feed or snow covers it.

But, those days will come, when the sky turns black with millions of waterfowl arriving in California.

The few birds that were seen on a recent run up and back past Delevan and Sacramento Wildlife Areas along Interstate 5 were a tiny fraction of what will be.

Additionally, many rice fields remain unharvested, and while harvesters are going strong, some fields are still green and not ready for harvesting.

State and federal refuges were given a one-week reprieve from opening due to the late rice harvest, and the same should be true for many private clubs, which can’t flood the fields until the rice has been harvested.

So, the bottom line is, if you’re a waterfowl hunter, hang in there.

The Balance of State Zone is another liberal, straight, unbroken season that will run until Jan. 29, 2012. Duck limits will be seven per day, and in that, you can have seven mallards, of which there can be no more than two hens, two pintails, one canvasback, two redheads and three scaup. With geese, you’re allowed eight per day, of which that limit may include six snows.

The Sacramento Valley has special restrictions on bagging white-fronted geese. Their season runs from Oct. 22 to Dec. 21. The bag limit is two per day. The possession limit is the usual double of the daily bag limit.

Current fishing

Temperatures are cooling, and so are the waters. That will bode well for numerous fisheries. There are several choices for you to find fish for the table.

Eagle Lake: While the surrounding territory, which includes the lake, is under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management, it was the state department Water Resources Control Board that decided Bly Tunnel would be permanently closed, and the WRCB is ordering the BLM to cut and weld shut the pipe to render ineffective any water leaving the lake, downstream into Willow Creek.

In the meantime, the center of the lake — around Spaulding Tract — is showing early action for those anchoring in the shallows and floating a night crawler under a bobber. As the weather cools, the action will improve until the weather is freezing. The lake closes to all fishing Dec. 31.

Folsom Lake: The lake is being dropped to winter storage levels. Lower water levels will make finding concentrations of bait on your scope easier. Watch for underground structures, such as rock piles. Because the water hasn’t cooled, most bass still are found in deeper pockets, so keep your eyes peeled for concentrations of bait and then toss dartheads or drop-shot. Crawdad or shad patterns should attract a bite.

Lake Amador: The weather and water has cooled enough for lake management to start dumping big numbers of their homegrown cut-bow trout into the lake. The catching hasn’t yet caught up with the thousands of pounds they’re putting in, but it soon will where big stringers will be hauled out. Leave the boat at home, as some of the best action is from the shore. The trick is to not fish too deep. Besides the trout, crappie have been biting around the boat docks and bass all around the lake, but no lunkers have been seen.

Lake Davis: The last storm left nearly a foot of snow around the lake so not many anglers were out. The storm moved out of the region, and everything has warmed enough so the early snow is gone. With the cooling weather and water, trout can be mainly found no more than 15 feet down and most little flashy lures or even a threaded night crawler should easily get you bit. There are still hatches, so those fly fishing are finding a willing bite around Mosquito Slough and Cow Creek.

Ice House Reservoir:
Fishing has been slow, but a recent plant should help greatly. Further up the road at Union Valley, the lake level is down to under 70 percent. Kokanee are done, and the only action you might find is deep trolling around the dam for mackinaw. Further again up the road at Loon Lake, snow stopped immediate access, but the road should again be open and the toplining should be wide open.

American River: With salmon fishing still occurring in open ocean waters and inside San Francisco Bay, the action continues to be good in local waters and looks like it will keep going for a while. Those with drift boats are back-trolling something like a K-5 Kwikfish throughout a major portion of the river. If you want to beat a great deal of the boating traffic, you can fish at night from the mouth of the American at Discovery Park upriver to the Interstate 80 Bridge. There also is the fall run of “half-pound” steelies. Soaking roe or drifting eggs can get you bit. Half-pounders is a misnomer, as some fresh-run steelhead can hit five pounds.

Contact George deVilbiss at