Long time Florida duck hunters, were we just spoiled?

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  • joelunchbucketjoelunchbucket Posts: 160 Deckhand
    Looks like 3 in 1 shot! And no Costas..... How can it be???
  • mgrandu1mgrandu1 Posts: 59 Greenhorn
    This is my .02 on Okeechobee . Can't really comment else where . The old timers who hunted O back in the  day hunted the lake shoreline and frontal sloughs with outboards. They didn't hunt the interior marsh and hydrilla wasn't present. They mainly hunted over peppergrass beds ,eel grass, small lily potholes and enjoyed consistent hunting. You had to know the lake and you had to know your trails to navigate in the dark. Water pumps and props can only tolerate so much vegetation . Somewhere in the early to mid 80''s hydrilla showed up and the duck hunting was off the charts.  I was lucky enough to experience this. The hunting , in general, was better than what they experienced in decades past. The hydrilla beds were present  throughout the 80's and into 90's and most of the 2000's to a lesser degree.  We hunted w/ outboards until 2003 and then we added a long tail rig . 04-05 were great seasons  because the hurricanes filled up the lake and we got access to areas that had great habitat. Then in 2006, we added a surface drive rig  and retired the outboard. Why ? Because we were no longer hunting the frontal sloughs and shore lines. We began hunting the deeper , interior marshes because the hunting pressure was less . There was still hydrilla / food  out in front of the marshes  .This equation spread out the hunters. The hydrilla beds were cut back drastically due to spraying in 2010-2014 time frame but we still had some on the lake up until Irma. Irma was destructive to say the least. We had a cleanup weekend a few days after Irma and we took the boat out for a ride. Harney was closed off due to the docks getting trashed and we had to use Dyess. The high water line was 3/4 ways up the levy/dirt ramp. If not for the levy, it would have been the modern day 1928 of Lake Port . All of that water from the south was pushed north. It would have been catastrophic in Lake Port if not for the levy.  The ditch was choked off. and we could not get out . Irma ripped up the shorelines and marshes. There is still  hard edge present today created by Irma.  Entering the 17' opener, the lake was 16'ish and stayed high all season. We had an A+ season that year. Ringers, teals, tree ducks. We rotated spots every weekend and stayed on em nice. 18' was another story. The back lash from the high water. No food, no water , no ducks . I did not shoot one ring neck in 18. The worst season for us by far. This year was up and down for us. Bad, pretty good, then bad. 

    The productivity of the lake is contingent on a couple of factors.
    1) food
    2) pressure
    3) depth

    Mud motors and gps's have turned a huge lake into a small slough. Any hunter who knows what they are doing is seeing the same things, thus concentrating hunters.
    Hunting on O looks like this with these factors ;
    +14/15' depth, hydrllla / good food =  A+ hunting ( volume & equal pressure, birds are on the open and they're in the back ) 
    +14/15' depth - no hydrilla - B ( good hunting exists but you'll need to work for it - no lake , it's all in the back 
    13' depth - some food, no hydrilla  - C hunting ( birds are concentrated / so are hunters - spent props and broken belts ensue )
    13' depth  , no food - F ( expect  mallards - go elsewhere, 2018  )

    If we can keep the water levels up and have decent food sources, the lake will be productive. We loose water ,  food becomes scarce and the hunting is tough.  

  • mgrandu1mgrandu1 Posts: 59 Greenhorn
    sorry I missed you at the DU banquet TG ...I guess my bro inlaw cleaned up, new gun, fast grass etc...good night at the track lol
    we'll be out there for specks in a couple of weeks -  they biting at all ? 
  • TGunnTGunn Posts: 1,919 Captain
    edited February 13 #95
    mgrandu1 said:
    sorry I missed you at the DU banquet TG ...I guess my bro inlaw cleaned up, new gun, fast grass etc...good night at the track lol
    we'll be out there for specks in a couple of weeks -  they biting at all ? 
    They are.  Call me. Plenty of room on the boat.
  • OGBOHICAOGBOHICA floridaPosts: 158 Deckhand
    frogging became a popular pastime as well....
  • NorthshoreNorthshore Posts: 22 Deckhand
    Good Lake O synopsis mgrand... I know you probably didn’t mean to discount the quality of hunting/ quantity of birds prior to the arrival of hydrilla on the Lake, but I’ve heard a lot of the same stories (passed down) as you from the generation that started hunting out there is the late 20s, and then the next generation that started out there in the late 60s (who we still hunt with today), and based on their accounts, sounds like hunting was off the chain before hydrilla as well. Just have to consider the hunting was such that they didn’t bother leaving the ramp until after daylight, they were running small outboard engines (those running Engines larger than 18hp before 1970 were big dogs), so the pressure on birds rafted in the peppergrass beds was nonexistent cause they couldn’t run through on plane except for the lone trail cut through the grass bed here or there. They wouldn’t bother setting up on a spot unless they kicked up 100 or more birds.

    IMO, even if the State/citizens of Florida ever did come full circle on the importance of water quality, and the Lake veg/habitat/clarity recovered to pre-hydrilla conditions, it’s unlikely the hunting quality would likewise recover 100%... simply due to pressure. If we are at 10% hunting quality today, it might recover to 75%, and that would be great. But like the discussion points made by others above, if the ducks can’t rest and roost on the lake, then they will continue to find refuge on the limited access areas.


  • NorthshoreNorthshore Posts: 22 Deckhand
    Oh yeah, forgot to mention when the Lake water quality/clarity is right... those grass beds can withstand much greater fluctuations in water depth because the light can reach bottom depths up to 10ft, and the grass beds can regenerate quickly after storms rip them up. Whereas with the water quality conditions right now in many open water areas where the beds used to be struggle to offer 1 to 2ft of light penetration, with only a few exceptions.
  • OGBOHICAOGBOHICA floridaPosts: 158 Deckhand
    About I'd say 15 yrs ago in the glades, we would get flight after flight of ringers at approx 8AM... most of us thought they came from the lake but that same yr the lake ringer hunting was not so good? I dont think anyone really figured out where thy roosted but it was like clockwork when they would start to show in the AM hrs
  • TGunnTGunn Posts: 1,919 Captain
    Oh yeah, forgot to mention when the Lake water quality/clarity is right... those grass beds can withstand much greater fluctuations in water depth because the light can reach bottom depths up to 10ft, and the grass beds can regenerate quickly after storms rip them up. Whereas with the water quality conditions right now in many open water areas where the beds used to be struggle to offer 1 to 2ft of light penetration, with only a few exceptions.
    You mean like back when we could find shellcracker beds in Moonshine?

    What they’ve done the that lake is a crying shame. 
  • TGunnTGunn Posts: 1,919 Captain
    OGBOHICA said:
    About I'd say 15 yrs ago in the glades, we would get flight after flight of ringers at approx 8AM... most of us thought they came from the lake but that same yr the lake ringer hunting was not so good? I dont think anyone really figured out where thy roosted but it was like clockwork when they would start to show in the AM hrs
    I mentioned it in my first post but we had some really crazy roosting and pre-dawn flight patterns this year. Some of the video I have at 4am would blow your mind. 
  • H20dadH20dad Posts: 1,725 Captain
    The Atlantic flyway is a manmade and false concept. If you look at the radio and tagging data for ducks traveling through and being killed in Florida. Most come from west of the Mississippi. 

    Florida should be in the Mississippi or central flyway, according to the ducks.....
  • needtohuntmoreneedtohuntmore MelbournePosts: 83 Deckhand
    Those **** ducks, I thought they trained them when they came out with the flyways.  Better get the corn and the nets out we have rule breakers...
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