Migration Alert: 2020 Washington Waterfowling Preview

Oct. 8, 2020 – Washington

© Michael Furtman

After a difficult off-season, Washington waterfowl hunters are eager to get back into the fields and marshes. Habitat reports vary across the state, but biologists suggest that early migrations appear to be right on schedule.

While traditional spring breeding ground surveys were canceled, wetland conditions were good in Alaska, British Columbia, and Alberta in 2020, according to Ducks Unlimited Field Reports.

In addition, Kyle Spragens, waterfowl section manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, reports that Russian researchers on Wrangell Island found that snow goose populations are not only healthy after last season’s near-record hatch, but the birds also appear to have had another very successful hatch this season.

Snow geese are the icing on the cake for Pacific Flyway waterfowl hunters, with growing numbers of birds gathering on new wintering areas across the Northwest in large enough numbers to support liberal bag limits during the return migration.

Spragens also reports that cackling and white-fronted geese are beginning to arrive in western Washington, and pintails, wigeon, and green-winged teal are gathering on the bays of north Puget Sound.

He recommends that hunters keep an eye out for these birds during high-tide cycles in the Skagit marshes and on the delta as well. Staging birds will linger on the open water, then work inland with the high tide to feed in flooded tidelands. 

While there are few reports from Willapa Bay and the lower Columbia River estuary, those areas typically offer good-to-great opening weekend hunting.

Chris Bonsignore, DU’s biologist in eastern Washington, believes that waterfowlers who stick to their traditional game plan for opening week will have good success. “Those who do their scouting and put in the time will do well,” he says.

When asked whether the lack of American hunters in Canada might result in an increased fall flight, Bonsignore is skeptical. “The weather has the most to do with bird numbers in our area,” he explains.

As usual, Washington waterfowl hunters will have to wait for weather to push a steady stream of ducks and geese into the state. But the best news of all is that the 2020–21 season will soon be upon us.