Saturday’s duck opener is expected to be “fairly good’’ — depending where in the state a waterfowler opens the season.
Persistent rains this summer should have helped duck production, waterfowl managers say, and the cold snaps that in some early autumns have prompted wood ducks and particularly teal to begin their migrations southward before the opener have been largely absent.
Duck-banding crews have seen plenty of mallards in the extreme northwest part of the state, where rains have flooded some farm fields and in other cases created sheet water where in most years there is none. Mallards are frequenting both.
Poor weather conditions for aviation on Monday and Tuesday kept DNR waterfowl specialist Steve Cordts of Bemidji and his pilot grounded. They had hoped to assess wetland conditions and duck numbers just before the opener.
“We hope to get up [today],” Cordts said Tuesday. “Depending on the weather.”
As is typical in September most years, migrant ring-necked ducks have not yet shown up in good numbers in northern Minnesota, Cordts said. Ringnecks that nested in that area of the state and their offspring will be primary targets for waterfowlers on Saturday, however.
Meanwhile, most, but not all, wildlife managers in the southern half of the state report that opening-day hunters should find smatterings, if not more, of teal and wood ducks over their decoys. Example: Ducks are reasonably abundant in the Lac qui Parle area, Cordts said, adding that he had no reports from Heron Lake.
The famed Lake Christina, near Ashby, appears to be another matter. A revitalization of the lake by the DNR, Ducks Unlimited and others in recent years has shown considerable promise, with aquatic vegetation and ducks — canvasbacks and redheads in particular — returning to the lake.
That progress seemed to have stalled somewhat this summer, and some observers believe the presence of about 1,500 swans on the lake for up to six weeks this summer might have had a detrimental effect both on the lake’s clarity and vegetation.
Temperatures on Saturday in the state’s midsection are expected to range from the high 60s to low 70s, with southwest winds up to 13 miles an hour.
Shooting begins one-half hour before sunrise.
Mille Lacs bass
In the wake of last weekend’s successful Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Mille Lacs, the DNR will be reviewing smallmouth catch data registered by the 50 anglers who competed for $1 million in prize money. DNR Fisheries Chief Don Pereira said Tuesday that the data collection was a test to see how the information could help the state get a better handle on the smallmouth population.
Pereira said current estimates of actual abundance of smallies in Mille Lacs are imprecise and the state is trying to rekindle its use of big fishing tournaments to improve knowledge of the fishery.
“Our local bass leaders are eager to help,” Pereira said. “We simply need to do our homework and figure out how to do it well.’’