By Jay Anglin, WF360 Great Lakes Migration Editor
The Buckeye State boasts a wide variety of waterfowl habitat, and reports suggest excellent bird numbers can be found throughout the state at this time. While early-season migrants have pushed into the southern tier of the state where duck season is currently closed, the expansive bays and marshes of Lake Erie in the north are supporting excellent numbers of waterfowl.
“Large numbers of ducks have arrived on the vast marshes of Lakes Erie’s southern shoreline,” says Fred Zink, waterfowling innovator and founder of Zink Calls. “Most hunters are seeing good numbers of pintails, wigeon, green-winged teal, black ducks and mallards. Most of the wood ducks headed south over the past 10 days, so much of the hunting has been taking place on the open water, marshes and flooded cornfields.”
Zink explains that weather is playing a large part in hunters’ success.
“The ducks have been pressured considerably, so it takes cooler temps and wind to get them moving during daylight hours,” he adds. “Reports indicate good numbers of divers, especially bluebills, have arrived and are feeding in 15 to 25 feet of water on mussel beds.”
Further east, DU volunteer Don Pashke is equally enthusiastic. “With the recent cold snap, the northeast Ohio marshes are starting to freeze. However, the weather has also brought an increase in the number of big ducks—mallards, gadwalls, pintails, and wigeon numbers are on the rise. Thanksgiving weekend should be a productive one for Ohio waterfowl hunters,” Pashke says.
While mallard and diver numbers are building along the coast of Lake Erie, perhaps most impressive is the dramatic increase in black duck numbers over the last two weeks, as noted by Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) waterfowl biologist Doug McClain during the last aerial survey. Ohio is a notorious migration stronghold for this wary species and near peak numbers have arrived.
McClain notes that during the last survey he was amazed at the number of swans currently in the state, including large numbers in the Lake Erie marshes as well as large concentrations inland. No species of swan is legal to harvest in the state of Ohio. McClain adds, “While not common, snow geese do migrate through Ohio, and care should be taken to positively identify them before pulling the trigger.”
As the season progresses, waterfowl will continue to trickle through the state, and it appears the best is yet to come.
“Goose season reopens Thanksgiving Day, and right now numbers of Canada geese appear to be exceptional. Geese will definitely provide some great opportunities for hunters in the near term,” explains ODNR Wildlife District Five Manager Todd Haines. “The south zone second split for ducks doesn’t open until December 16, but duck numbers appear to be excellent in much of interior Ohio. Bird numbers are looking really good on Grand Lake St. Mary’s, and for that matter, any inland lake that remains ice free will attract a lot of birds that get pushed off the Lake Erie marshes when they freeze. Open water is key and if you can find it, you will find ducks and geese.”
While hunters in the northern half of Ohio are in the homestretch of the season, their cohorts to the south are just getting geared up. Thankfully, the state offers an abundance of opportunities for waterfowlers throughout the holiday season.
Jay Anglin is an avid hunter, fisherman, and guide from LaPorte, Indiana. A veteran writer, Anglin, holds a biology degree from Northern Michigan University. He will be providing migration updates from the Great Lakes Region throughout the 2017-2018 waterfowl season.