Uncertainty In Waterfowl Numbers

COVID-19-forced cancellation of the annual waterfowl survey done by U.S. Fish & Wildlife and its Canadian counterparts.

While there simply isn’t a reliable count on waterfowl to accurately convey the overall estimate in the Central Flyway and other flight paths, the overall duck and goose pursuit should be well worth the effort, reported Kevin Kraai, waterfowl program leader with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

“Like everything else in 2020, it has been very different (for waterfowl management), but we’ve had really good contact with our biologists and colleagues in the breeding grounds areas so we actually have a pretty good picture of what has gone on in terms of habitat conditions and productivity. With all that being said, it’s a mixed bag in terms of what’s been good and not entirely great for the landscape,” Kraai said.

“We are on our third consecutive year of either above-average or exceptional breeding conditions in the Dakotas. In talking to my colleagues up there, they reinforced that the conditions were as good as they have even seen, which translates into a huge portion of the breeding grounds producing a significant number of young ducks. We already observed that during the early teal season (in September) here in Texas with many more reports than usual of the amount of younger birds in the flight.

“Despite not having a (federal) survey, we’re looking at really good indications that there was an extremely good production year, and a very important part of the country that’s significant to Texas waterfowl and especially the Gulf Coast.

“From a species standpoint, I’m hearing that blue-winged teal did exceptional, especially up in the Rolling Plains and High Plains, as well as northern pintails and gadwall. It’s those species, as well as shovelers and green-winged teal which nested in the eastern Dakotas, that did very, very well.

"Some of those species like bluewings, greenwings and shovelers could be near record highs. We’ve also been seeing an increasing trend in the ever-important redhead population.”

Hurricanes, tropical storm impacts

Kraai noted that the Texas coast, which features nearly unlimited public area to hunt and is always a hot spot regardless of conditions, faces adversity related to Mother Nature.

“The Gulf Coast has certainly been through some turmoil this year with multiple storms that impacted the areas as you moved up the coast toward the Louisiana border. The flooding and storm surges from those hurricanes and tropical storms did push a lot of saltwater farther inland up into those critical marsh areas,” Kraai said. “Good rains will help flush those areas out but we were holding saltwater in marsh that is typically fresh and that can be quite damaging over time to many of the submerged aquatics in the brackish to fresh marsh that are so important to waterfowl.

“You never want too much rain during the fall because it will spread the birds out, but those individuals who purposely put water on the landscape through whatever means are really looking good in a year like this where much of the state is in drought.”

Uncertainty is the best description for those hunters willing to invest the time and effort.

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Fishing Report from TPWD (Jul. 10)

GOOD. Water stained; 86 degrees; full pool. Fishing patterns are holding steady. Striper are fair to good in 30-70 feet of water. Live bait is still the most consistent way to put fish in the boat, but some can be caught using white, silver or chartreuse spoons. Sand bass are slow in 20-30 feet of water with live shad or small slabs and jigs in white, or silver. Catfish are fair on cut shad in 5-20 feet of water. Water clarity is 4-12 feet of visibility. Report by TJ Ranft, Ranft Guide Service. Bass are tough in 20-35 feet of water on Texas rigged worms, deep diving crankbaits, Carolina rigs, dropshots, and shaky heads. Report by JK Outdoors Bass Fishing Guide.

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