About mid-day Friday, the phone calls and texts started coming in – “You have any birds on your place?”, “What’s your plan for the morning?”, “I think I may have a field full of geese if you want to come”, “I’m so frustrated”, “I want to move” – and so on and so forth.
This morning, duck and goose season opens in the Indiana “north zone.” Last weekend, adjacent counties in Michigan opened, and with the crummy weather that zipped through the upper Great Lakes region, a few ducks and geese migrated. I know because Monday morning they appeared like magic on places that had been shot out Saturday and Sunday during the special two-day Indiana youth waterfowl season (…not a big fan by the way).
But, by Wednesday the “new” birds that showed up were already settled in and enjoying the summer-like weather with the few local birds that are still around. Geese piled into a few fields by the hundreds, or even thousands, while ducks disappeared into the woodwork, literally.
The best news from a waterfowl hunter perspective is a lot of wood ducks are in the area. But, overall this very well may be the worst I’ve ever seen it for the opener. The numbers of ducks around is deplorable. And, it’s not just here, there is a huge swatch of real estate at this latitude with slim pickings for ducks.
Not sure where I’ll be by the time you read this, but I bet I’ll scrape together a few ducks and some geese with whoever I’m with and enjoy the heck out of it.
Thankfully, the weather next week looks at least slightly more fall-like. It’s not supposed to be 20 degrees higher than average anyway. Maybe our duck season will happen before we freeze-up? Speaking of which, if you believe all the forecasts, we are supposed to have a cold and snowy winter that lasts a long time.
In other news, I haven’t been deer hunting yet and I’ve spoken with a bunch of other hunters that like me, just aren’t that motivated when the daily forecast looks more like June than mid-October. Supposedly guys are seeing some nice bucks, and a few are being harvested. My spots are logistical nightmares until crops are picked so I’m talking myself out of it quite easily.
Fishing has been good overall for just about everything. We’re in this sort of limbo between summer and fall so fish are active and eating well. That said, recent heavy rains really messed some of the rivers and creeks up. Trail Creek in Michigan City was a complete blow-out. The St Joe held up pretty good overall but smaller tributaries of the Joe, not so much. The bottom line is, once the water drops and clears there should be a bunch of fresh steelhead in. It’s certainly time.
Nothing fights like a “chrome” steelhead this time of year. Despite unusually warm conditions in September and October, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources reports an incredible number of fish have run up the St. Joseph River from Lake Michigan. “Last week 300+ coho and 600+ steelhead went thru the South Bend fish ladder. That's before the rain…probably even more fish arriving this week. Total of 1,765 steelhead and 5,869 coho during September and October… one of the best fall runs in years!” IDNR fisheries biologist Ben Dickinson posted on Facebook Thursday.
While those numbers are very impressive, I will say that the little heat wave that struck in mid-September boosted water temps well into the lethal range for these cold-water species. It’s a real shame when this happens, but I’m confident that at least some of the fish were able to hold in cool tributaries and springs to survive.
Hopefully, this cool down coming will prompt a bunch of winter-run steelhead to enter streams. And ducks to migrate from the north. And amorous big bucks to roam the countryside during daylight hours.
Jay Anglin writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Argus. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.