Waterfowl hunting offers mixed bag on Reelfoot Lake, surrounding area

Waterfowl hunting offers mixed bag on Reelfoot Lake, surrounding area

Posted: Friday, January 6, 2012 3:00 pm

With duck season now at the halfway point for this part of the country, it depends on who you talk with on whether or not it has been a good season. Some are hoping the start of the 2012 new year is much better than the end of the 2011 as for the waterfowl hunting.
I would be willing to say that over half of the hunters I have spoken with on a somewhat weekly basis aren’t having the season they had hoped for. Others are doing much better.
Several things have affected the waterfowl hunting around this area with the main one being the weather.
For the most part, the weather for the eastern two thirds of the United States has been above normal in temperatures. Add that to a very wet November and December and what ducks you have in the area are scattered everywhere. The weather, though, may be about to change with time and could be early enough to salvage some of the season for many.
Each year, there are those who have a good season and those who don’t, but this year may have affected more as far not having such a good season.
Waterfowl has to have two things for sure — food and open water (not frozen). The freeze line in the past has always been where the largest concentration of waterfowl sets up, give or take a few miles. It is nothing for a Canada goose to fly over 500 miles in one day, ducks maybe not as far.  Ducks and geese want open water so they can roost/rest for the night. This will keep most predators away from the waterfowl til the next day. A duck or a goose usually will not roost on dry ground.
The freeze line where most waters (ponds, lakes and some rivers) are frozen. Usually by this time of the season, the freeze line is much farther south than what it is. At last check, many states to the north had both open water and food so this could slow the migration down even more.
Ducks continue to hold along the edge of the freeze line running from Colorado to upstate New York. With those already south pushing to regions along the Gulf Coast.
Food, well if the concentration of waterfowl stays north, as the food supply lessens, the birds will migrate south to keep up with the food supply and water also.
While a number of mallards have pushed south, the hardy birds remain scattered along the southern edge of the freeze line in states where the season is closed, food is abundant and open water is still available. Birds that are filling southern states at this time are wary, holding in areas of limited water and practiced in the art of hunter avoidance. In the absences of harsh weather to kick them around, they are content to rest in safe havens and often feed at night.
Also, some states to the north, the seasons have closed so the ducks and geese do not have much of a reason to move south.
The long-range weather forecast does show a change for colder and possibly snowier up close to the U.S./Canadian border and just to the south, which should help but will it be before the season ends around this area? Only time, Mother Nature and the good Lord knows that answer.
Surface Temperature and Drought Monitor maps reveal ongoing difficulties facing area hunters today. With 20-degree temperatures receding into the Canadian Prairies, birds remain scattered across northern states, where open water and forage remain abundant. While many were hoping for a white Christmas holiday break — which usually is duck moving weather — Jack Frost and Old Man Winter just can’t seem to get their act in gear this season.
The plight of the southern hunter can best be described as frustrating. In a year where duck numbers are near peak levels, drought conditions and the lack of precipitation continue to plague hunter success. As expected, the lack of ducks across the mid-south fuel doubts that the number of ducks predicted for the fall flight this year are inaccurate but northern hunters who witnessed record activity in November would disagree.
So where are all the ducks? Most all of the early season birds have pushed across drought stricken areas to the Gulf Coast and many into Mexico. Duck numbers in Louisiana remain good to excellent at this time and the Texas Gulf coast is simply the Jewel of the Flyway. The teal populations, which were nearly double their average this year and filling consistent slots in the bag limit, have continued to move to their southern most destinations along with other early migration birds.
Hunting in the central and mid-south “gap” at this time is not for the faint of heart. Scout hard, get off the beaten path and balance your expectations to avoid frustration. As the saying goes, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. With just over a month to go in some areas of the south, there is time for the epic storm to salvage the season.
CENTRAL FLYWAY
Goose hunting remains good to excellent in Colorado, Nebraska and South Dakota. Ducks remain scattered along the edge of the freeze line. Hunting in the Texas Panhandle, Kansas and Oklahoma remain fair, as early ducks press south form gunning pressure to the Gulf Coast. While the Gulf Coast remains the flyway hotspot, hunting in New Mexico consistent and slightly above average.
MISSISSIPPI FLYWAY
Ducks remain scattered across the north, with notable numbers from southern Minnesota into Iowa, Wisconsin and northern Illinois, where goose hunting remains good to excellent. Ducks in southern Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky are not moving consistently and remain difficult to hunt. As birds move south to the coast, few northern birds are replacing them. Louisiana remains the bright spot of the flyway at this time as birds continue to trickle in from the north and outpace harvest.
The fishing around these parts may have been hindered somewhat by the weather and holidays, but those who have been able to go have really had good luck.
Down at Reelfoot, the only thing going is duck hunting and crappie fishing. The crappie fishing being more so bothered by the weather elements when duck hunting usually is not. Most or all of the crappie fishing right now has been going on the southern most part of Reelfoot Lake, which is also called the Lower Blue Basin area.
Wednesday seems to have been a good day of crappie fishing on Reelfoot Lake. A few reports of decent to very good catches. Minnows, jigs tipped with minnows and Berkley Crappie Nibbles seem to be the best.
Then moving up to Kentucky Lake, the same except up on the Big Pond, the bass fishing is good, really good. The presence of current from the TVA folks dropping the Tennessee River levels down to the winter pool level of 354 has caused tons of baitfish to gather in mouths of large creeks and out on river flats near the channel. With the large schools of baitfish present, this attracts the bass for one as well as crappie, white bass and other fish to go along.
It seems to not be that big of a problem going out and doing well just if you can catch the weather conditions right, meaning light winds. Sunshine does help also.
In next week’s column, I will touch a little on the latest and newest bait to hit the market along with the regulations that go along with fishing the bait in different states. This is called the “Alabama Rig” and falls under the law in Tennessee of fishing a “umbrella” style bait. The can and cannot “do’s” with this bait according to each state law.
Don’t forget about the lineups of events the Reelfoot Lake Parks System has planned for the next several weeks. You can learn more by getting in touch with these folks by calling 731-253-9652 or visit their website at www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/reelfoot/.
Come Monday,, my dad and mom, Lanny and Patricia Callicott, will be celebrating their 49th wedding anniversary. These two people have set very good examples for my sister and me during the time and after we were raised. The examples continue as myself and family along with my sister and her family are able to grow each day with the guidance they show us as we continue to mold our individual families. I hope and pray that we can hold up just half of what they have done and stood for during the last 49 years. So mom and dad, here is for you, Happy 49th Wedding Anniversary from Gracyn, Lisa, Myself, Kim, Nicole, Victoria and Vesa Ponkka along with your friends. May GOD continue to Bless you both as you continue to bless our families.
Til next week’s column,
Catch ya on the water folks
Brent Published in The Messenger 1.6.12

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