BY STEVE MERLO Contributing outdoors columnist
The wild crappie bite at Isabella Lake, finally slowing to a standstill, means the fish have gone deep and anglers will need to ply the depths to make contact with the good eating panfish. Before the cold fronts struck, my wife and I were finding plenty of fish from the bank out to 18 feet deep, but with the sudden drop in water temperatures, we were forced to rely on our electronics to find fish.
Casting onto the tops of submerged points from 27-35-feet, our last foray up to the Kern River Valley impoundment only netted nine eating-size crappie and five 2-pound white catfish that also ate our slow-moving jigs. Look for the lake to continue producing top-notch crappie angling when the waters warm up from late February through April.
Bird hunters look forward to many species in opener
This is the time of year when bird hunters rejoice. With the opening of several more seasons Saturday, the adage about "if it flies, it dies" will never be truer. Quail chukar, waterfowl, doves, pheasants, wild turkey and other species will all be open for the taking.
The second half of dove season opens Saturday and extends 45 days until Christmas Eve. Limits on the so-called bird of peace remain the same, with a 10-bird limit per day and 20 in possession after the opener. Eurasian Collared and ringneck doves remain unlimited, but must be taken in conjunction with the regular season.
Air rifle hunters might be surprised to find that the Eurasians, deemed "resident small game" rather than "migratory" like mourning doves and waterfowl, can be taken with their favorite pellet gun, along with quail, pheasants and even wild turkeys, although the turkeys must be taken with at least a .20 caliber gun.
Along with the arrival of dove season, pheasant and wild turkey also open Saturday, with mixed reports. Since their heyday in the mid 1970s, wild pheasant numbers have declined to nearly zero on the southern San Joaquin Valley floor due to necessary farming practices. However, Northern California still holds a lot of birds and die-hard hunters can find excellent shooting at clubs and open ground around Mendota and Sacramento. The limit is two males per hunter on opening Saturday and Sunday, with a three-male limit after the weekend until the season closes on Dec. 23.
Wild turkey hunters will find decent opportunities above the 3,000-foot elevations; however, most of the birds will be on private property. The Cedar Creek and other National Forest areas still hold quite a few birds, but hunting them is a tough proposition unless one is in great physical shape. The limit on the big birds is one per day of either sex, with a two-bird season limit.
Sign-ups for Taft Trout Derby
A $1000 grand prize will be offered to the person catching the largest trout at the annual Taft Chamber of Commerce Trout Derby Nov. 17, at Buena Vista's Lake Evans. The opportunity for winning $20,000 also sits on the table for the lucky fisherman weighing in a trout that falls within two-one-hundreds of a pre-determined weight. Two-thousand pounds of trout will be planted prior to the event. Registrations are now being accepted at the Taft Chamber of Commerce at (661) 765-2165 or at Bob's Bait Bucket at (661) 833-8657.
Sportsmen's Night Nov. 20
Tickets are on sale at local businesses for the 61st Annual Sportsmen's Night event held to honor Kern County outdoorsmen, women and youth. Held at the Kern County Fairgrounds on Nov. 20, the event will feature a barbecued steak dinner, beverages, a huge raffle and lots of friendly camaraderie when hunters and fishermen reunite for an evening of traditional fun and good food.
Highlight of the evening will be the presentation of the annual "Man of the Year" award to Ken Quarnberg, owner of Bakersfield's Valley Gun Shop.
This year's raffle will be better than average, with at least 100 prizes, most valued at over $100 each, to be given away just for the price of a $30 admission ticket. Other organizations will also be on hand to give away guns and other outdoor gear. Kids under the age of 16 will be eligible to win half of the night's prizes, also including plenty of guns for everyone.
A limited number of tickets will be sold due to space constraints. Contact Jim Roberts (661) 805-5766 for more info or donations. Proceeds will be donated to a variety of outdoor-related groups working for wildlife habitat construction. Tickets can be purchased at Valley Gun; 2nd Amendment Sports; Ol'Boy Outdoors; The Ammo Dump; Bear Mountain Sports; Galey's Marine Supply; and Bob's Bait Bucket.