BY JIM NIEMIEC
LAKEVIEW – Western Outdoor News checked in with state and federal wildlife refuges and a few duck clubs to get an idea of what waterfowl hunters can expect come opening day Oct. 22.
The consensus of reports indicates that there are some early arrivals already here, but that the lack of any kind of significant weather has kept the southernly migrations to a minimum for the most part. Wildlife biologists think that this past week’s full moon phase brought in some new dabbling ducks, but very few divers.
The latest waterfowl update from the Wister Wildlife Refuge in the Imperial Valley came by way of Cris Crecelius, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor II, (760-359-0577).
“IWA estimates to be 90 percent flooded by opening day. Hunt unit W11 C will take additional time to flood due to water conveyance and levee issues currently being addressed. The Wister staff is on track to have maximum occupancy for opening day.
“The IWA staff has observed a higher-than-average push of early arriving ducks; primarily teal, mallards, gadwall and northern shovelers. CWA began their wetlands project at Y15 A and B and will complete the project with a pipeline, additional leveling and blind configuration next spring,” stated Crecelius.
Crecelius continued his report with, “The IWA staff planted Japanese millet and transplanted Alkali bullrush in both the Y15 A and B units. In both units, waterfowl have been observed utilizing the area in good numbers. The staff is also working on a pond condition(s) spreadsheet, which should be available prior to opening of the waterfowl season.”
Good news came in from Tom Trakes, Wildlife Habitat Supervisor representing the San Jacinto Wildlife Refuge in Lakeview.
“The SJWR is ready to hunt. The refuge will shoot out of 54 blinds, but there is no water in Mystic Lake to offer lakeshore hunting. The staff has prepared an additional 100 acres of wetlands off Bridge Street for limited waterfowl hunting. As of this report, the refuge is only holding about 2,000 ducks, which is down from our normal pre-season population of about 4,000 mixed ducks.
“We have lots of food available and the wetlands have been ready to hunt for some time now. The parking area, roads and levees are in good condition and these wetlands produced a pretty good crop of locally nested ducks this past spring. Local birds, consisting mostly of cinnamon teal and mallards, should mix well with northern ducks arriving over last week’s full moon phase,” said Trakes.
The catch basin behind Prado Dam hosts three duck clubs that offer up pretty good hunting, especially when timber in the basin is flooded-up and new flocks of ducks arrive. WON checked in with Patrick Raahauge, owner of Raahauge’s Duck Club (951-735-798), to get an update on the status of the wetlands.
“Wetlands in the basin produced a good number of locally hatched mallards, teal and a few other puddle ducks. Currently, there are ducks in the basin and more puddle ducks are arriving daily. This season, the club will offer hunting to the general public for afternoon-only hunts on Wednesday and Sunday. Potential hunters need to call the gun range number to book a hunt and need to show up at the hunt lodge between 1 and 1:30 p.m. for orientation and blind assignments. The cost for the afternoon shoot is $75 per gun,” said Raahauge.
Moving over east to the Lower Colorado River area, Rick Francis, DFG Wildlife Specialist in charge of the Palo Verde Ecological Preserve (760-922-9189), located just a couple of miles north of Blythe on the California side of the river, is optimistic about the duck season opener.
“Our duck ponds, at 2nd Ave. were planted and irrigated two times in September. The ponds were planted in millet and local grasses that grow well in this area. We have just now started fall flooding for the 2022/23 season. Our usual ducks found here for the opener are likely to be pintail, mallards, gadwall and, of course, all three species of teal,” Francis told WON.
Francis added the following information, “Duck hunting at this refuge is on a first come, first-served choice of hunting area. All roads are closed to vehicles in this area, but there is a lot of parking to the north of the ponds that offer up very easy access to the hunting area.
“There are NO permanent blinds available and hunters are required to remove all brought-in blind material. Hunters are also asked to keep the area clean of any trash and remove all spent shotgun shells. Hunters do not need to check in or out when hunting this refuge.”
Kern National Wildlife Refuge will have a delayed opening this waterfowl season due to a lack of available water to flood ponds and wetlands. The following information was sent to WON by Miguel Jimenez, Project Manager for the refuge (661-725-2767).
“Kern refuge will not open for hunting until Nov. 20. Due to a minimal allocation of water, the flooding of ponds has yet to be determined. Both hunter capacity and the flooding of ponds will come at a later date. A proposed map will be developed once we get closer to the opener,” said Jimenez.
Jimenez went on to add, “The drought has significantly affected the flooded habitat the refuge is able (traditionally) to provide to migrating waterfowl and water birds. This has also limited recreational activities such as hunting, birding and environmental education. The refuge has also been working with CWA on a second phase of a NAWCA project that is enhancing our water convenance system throughout ponds allowing the refuge to be more efficient, and conducting critical repairs to our levees.”
HUNTING AREA TO REOPEN – Lake Perris, located in Riverside County off the Ramona Expressway (note: Lake Perris Dr. off the Ramona Expressway will be closed and the only access to the lake will be by way of Moreno Beach Drive), will finally offer limited duck hunting opportunity after being closed for years due to low water and various management issues.
The hunting program will be under the direction of the California Department of Parks and Recreation and Perris Lake will be open for hunting from an approved and permitted boat only on Wednesdays through the 2022/23 waterfowl season. Permits to hunt this lake are available by mail only to the Department of Parks and Recreation and only 9 hunting permits will be issued for the Wednesday hunts.
According to the DPR website, 9 GPS boat-in buoy spots will be anchored in the wooded area on the east end of the lake. The daily fee is $50 per hunter. Beginning at 4:00 a.m., check-in will be started by a DPR attendant and all hunters must attend a safety/information briefing starting at 4:05 a.m. Vessels will be checked for safety equipment and Quagga mussels. Hunting ends at noon.
***Lake Perris is set to offer a bonus waterfowl hunt on Sunday, October 23.
In years past, Lake Perris offered up pretty good duck hunting for diver species ducks, of which redheads, canvasback and bluebills made up the bulk of birds harvested, along with some teal and mallards.
The rules and regulations (SRA) for hunting this lake consist of over 5 pages of printed regs (available online at lakeperrishunting.com).
PERRIS – California State Parks staffers announced partial closures of Lake Perris on select waterfowl hunting dates between Oct. 26 and late January of 2023. This should be of particular interest to anglers who may show up not knowing a significant portion of the lake is off limits.
Lake Perris Waterfowl Hunting is active the following dates:
Sunday, October 23 (Only weekend date of the season)
Every Wednesday of the 2022-23 Waterfowl season:
- October 26, 2022
- November 2, 9, 16, 23, 30, 2022
- December 7, 14, 21, 28, 2022
- January 4, 11, 18, 25, 2023
* The East of the lake is closed until 12:30 p.m. (Except for reservation-holding hunters)
* Bernasconi is closed on these dates.
* Access to the east end (Including bike trail, horse trail, hiking, fishing, and shore access)
* Closed from lot 11-12 to Bernasconi Until 12:30 p.m.
* Vessels are not allowed east of the middle of the island on hunt days until 12:30 PM
* Stay out of this area. Persons in this area are at risk of great bodily injury.
* Violators may be arrested / cited for Penal Code Section 602 Trespassing.