Going pheasant hunting? Try a state refuge

By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Pheasant hunting season opened under the most ideal conditions any ground stomper could hope for. The sky was clear and blue, and if there was a breeze, it was negligible.

Opening weekend is always a barnburner for those toting shotguns. If you had a field to tromp around in, there was a good chance you got your limit of two roosters. Many hunters don’t spend much time pursuing these Chinese imports after opening weekend, but the season runs through Dec. 23.

Private property was the site for the majority of successful pheasant hunters. There are clubs throughout the north state that offer a combination of waterfowl and upland game hunting.

There’s an adequate number of pheasant to pursue in California but not like the huge numbers in barrel melting states like North and South Dakota.

A major problem in California is the farming practice of spring plowing at the same time pheasants want to mate and nest. Unfortunately, mama pheasant and her nest of eggs are plowed over.

You might want to consider hunting at any of the state’s game refuges, such as Delevan, Gray Lodge, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area and the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area. All are in the north state. Other state and federal units in the Central Valley offer similar opportunities for upland game hunting. All of these units will be open for pheasant hunting on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.

Multiple hunters works well to stop “runners,” birds that prefer to hoof it way in front of you instead of holding and taking to the air just before you step on him. Use one or more persons to block a bird’s movement.

And every bird hunter knows the value of having a dog in the field. I don’t know how many birds I may have walked past as he hunkered down until the pup sniffed him out.


Nimbus Hatchery is open to view salmon


Salmon a couple of years ago were thought to be almost an endangered specie. Fishing for Chinook salmon was suspended in the ocean and local water.

Their numbers then exploded, and 2012 is going down as a major run. Ocean fishing was phenomenal, and those fishing in rivers have done extremely well.

They’re back. No question about it.

Some will spawn naturally in the river. Others, born in the hatchery, will return to the hatchery.

Ladders at the Nimbus Hatchery are in place to allow salmon to fight their way up from the river to large holding pens, where personnel will milk the females of their eggs, the males of their sperm, and create the next generation of baby salmon.

You can visit the Nimbus Hatchery and watch the spawning process. It’s an awesome sight to watch them come up the ladder. You can see them cruising in the holding pens. Catch it at the right time, and you can watch personnel in the spawning process.

There also is a playground with replicas of giant salmon for youngsters.


Current fishing


The temperature has plummeted, and even some lower-elevation lakes were taken out of the fishing equation because of lowering snow levels with the last storm. However, there are many areas you can go to for good rod-bending action.

Port of Sacramento: The boat club at the port held its annual members-only striper derby Saturday, and the indication is there is a tremendous number of stripers roaming the area. By their 2 p.m. weigh-in deadline, 30 stripers had been checked in. There were many more than 30 bass caught, however. Many anglers had a multiple number of fish, only checking in the largest. The majority were five to six pounds with a few from seven to eight pounds. Top fish for the day was 12.3 pounds.

One angler nailed a 34-pounder a couple of days earlier, cast-retrieving a Rat-L-Trap on 15-pound test line. On derby day, he was tossing a Rat-L-Trap when something really big took the lure. He was still fighting the fish an hour, two hours, three hours later. After more than four hours, he finally got it to the boat. Turns out it was a carp that weighed more than 40 pounds. He just knew he had the derby-winning fish.

Access to the north side of the channel and the south side of the port and immediate channel has been cut off but isn’t impossible if you’re not a boat club member.

After Jefferson Boulevard comes back up as a levee parallel to the Deep Water Channel, there are numerous access points if you have a small boat you can hand launch. You can fish the channel or go all the way up to the port.

It’s a much further boat ride, but you can launch below the mouth of the Deep Water Channel and make the run up. And right now, the turning basin and upper channel is stuffed with stripers.

Lake Camanche: It was highly advertised that something like 100 trout would be tagged with rewards of no less than $500 for their trout derby.

Generally, when this happens, most anglers say, “Sure. None of those fish ever get caught.” Well, two were caught, and each was worth $500. The top award for the largest stringer weighed in at 8.15 pounds, and the biggest fish beat the stringer at 9.31 pounds.

Several trout are still roaming the lake. While you won’t get anything for getting a big stringer, you can win a one-night stay in a cabin at the lake by latching onto a specially tagged trout.

Eagle Lake: Besides opening weekend on the Memorial Day holiday, the lake offers some of the best catching opportunities at this time of year. You can limit right now on Eagle Lake rainbows running to 2½ pounds, and you can stay shallow to find them. A threaded night crawler is always a top bet, but those trolling a Jay Fair fly also are hammering ’bows.

Bay Area: The rock cod bite is wide open, and once the sacks are full, the boats are pulling pots for limits of Dungeness crab. There’s a good lingcod bite, and if you can work a jig, you can get a highly preferred ling to nearly 30 pounds. You simply can’t beat the combo trips right now.

Contact George deVilbiss at