Migration Alert: Rain Creates Opportunities, Causes Problems for Northeast Waterfowlers

Nov. 15, 2018 – Atlantic Flyway – Connecticut and New Jersey

Photo © Dean Davenport

By Joseph Albanese, WF360 Atlantic Flyway Migration Editor

This week began with fresh ducks riding the north winds out of Canada and filtering into Atlantic Flyway states. Newly flooded habitat has provided a smorgasbord for ducks and geese in Connecticut, while the abundant water has made for challenging hunting in New Jersey.

Christopher Zins, an avid waterfowl hunter who spends more than 30 days afield each year, has been enjoying the unusually high water levels in Connecticut.

“The Connecticut River was four feet higher than I can ever remember it being,” Zins says. “The water has been so high that some guys have been bass fishing in their spreads.”

Mallard numbers are typical for this time of year, but the real story is an abundance of “other” ducks, such as wigeon, gadwalls, and pintails, which have made a strong showing over the past week. Reports also indicate that large numbers of green-winged teal have arrived in western Connecticut.

Zins notes that both ducks and geese are hitting sheet water in flooded cornfields, and hunters have been enjoying success over spreads of floaters and full-body field decoys. The flooding has also created some unique habitats for the Northeast, including a few patches of flooded timber. Hunters should investigate low-lying timber stands to cash in on this action before it dries up. Utilizing topographic maps and aerial photos can help locate these potential hunting spots.

Down in New Jersey, Avery/Banded pro-staffer Bob Vellucci says that the high water levels have made him work especially hard for his ducks. Scouting will make the difference between great and mediocre hunts and taking the time to find new food sources will also greatly increase your odds of success.

With large numbers of waterfowl staging just to the north, Vellucci is optimistic that the hunting will improve with the next major cold front. With strong northwest winds predicted on Friday, that could happen as early as this weekend.

“A good 20-mile-per-hour blow is usually all it takes this time of year,” Vellucci says. “Setting up in flooded river bottoms with plenty of acorns is as close to a sure thing as you’ll get. Use the higher water levels to push into new territory. If you can mange to find an overhang to conceal your boat blind, all the better.”

As in Connecticut, flooded fields have been hotspots in New Jersey, with geese feeding anywhere corn meets water. “This weekend, try to set up in areas where you have seen birds in the past. Keep your decoys visible and your blinds hidden,” Velucci advises.

As winter-like weather moves into the northern Atlantic Flyway, hunters should be prepared to take advantage of new habitats and fresh birds while the getting is good.

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Joseph J. Albanese is a New York–based freelance writer with a lifelong love of salt marshes and Atlantic Brant. Joseph will be providing habitat and hunting reports for the Atlantic Flyway during the 2018−2019 waterfowl season.