I like dirt and mud, but when it is all that remains of former duck-hunting spots on the verge of the season opener, it's quite disconcerting.

Indiana's North Zone waterfowl season opens on Saturday with ducks legal through Dec. 13 and Dec. 19-27. Canada geese are legal through Nov. 22 and again Dec. 12 to Jan. 24.

I didn't look up the weather stats, but I'd bet it's been a better month since we had rain around here (although it's in the forecast for today and Saturday).

Area ponds, marshes and ditches are worse for it. Several are dusty dry and many are just moist spots. Some swamps are critically shriveled and surrounded by wide, duck-less muck flats.

Bottom line is they're not called waterfowl for nothing. No water means no ducks.

On the flip side, guys with access to larger ponds and lakes report no shortage of waterfowl. Perhaps, they'll enjoy a better concentration of mallards and woodies with the smaller spots shriveled up.

The ducks around right now are mostly home bodies hatched on area swamps and ponds. Seems like it was a bumper year for local ducks as water levels were in excellent shape this spring and early summer.

However, a precipitation-less month has shrunk the number of duck holding spots and does not bode well for attracting migrants as they wing south next month — unless we get lots of rain and soon.

The USFWS's annual Duck Breeding Population Survey conducted in May and June showed a strong population. Total estimate was 49.5 million breeding ducks, which was up slightly from 2015 and a whopping 43 percent above the 1955-2015 average. Individually, mallards were at 11.6 million (51 percent above average), blue-winged Teal 8.5 million (plus 73 percent), scaup 4.4 million (minus 13 percent), green-winged Teal 4.1 million (plus 19 percent) and gadwall 3.8 million (up 100 percent).

Geese are hardly affected by the current mini drought.

Thousands are roosting on the La Porte lakes and could provide excellent shooting if you can get on the field they're frequenting. Although, that may be a bit more daunting than usual due to large number of crops already harvested, which, of course, is directly related to the dry fall.

Bag limits are six ducks (no more than four mallards, three woodies included) and three Canada geese per day. Complete waterfowl regulations are at www.in.gov/dnr/fishwild.

RECORD SMALLIE: A Michigan state record smallmouth bass, weighing 9.33 pounds, was caught on Sunday.

Greg Gasiciel of Rhodes, Mich., was fishing a bass tournament on Hubbard Lake in Alcona Co. when the surprise-sized smallie grabbed a green, twister-tail jig.

The previous record had stood for 109 years since 1906 (yep, I'm thinking of the Cubs, too).

Indiana's state record smallmouth is seven-pounds, four-ounces.

REYNOLDS CREEK: The Indiana DNR reminds there are two units available for waterfowl hunting at Reynolds Creek Gamebird Habitat Area (former prison farm just southwest of Michigan City in Porter County).

The units are included in the daily draw at Kingsbury Fish & Wildlife Area at 4:30 a.m. Hunts are only Sundays and Wednesday with one party of hunters per unit allowed. For more information, call Kingsbury at (219) 393-3612.

OUTDOORS REPORT: There are a few steelhead and coho being caught in Trail Creek, but conditions are ultra-tough with low and clear water conditions, angling pressure and lots of leaves starting wash downstream.

Should be some steelies — both Skamania and winter-runs — hanging around the pier and harbor. Might be some lakers, too, as DNR sample nets pulled a few lake trout from just outside the Michigan City breakwall this week.

Panfish and bass are being caught on the La Porte lakes, although I haven't heard any great numbers.

An early corn harvest is underway, which is great for deer-archery enthusiasts. Turkey-shotgun season opened Wednesday and continues through Nov. 1 in La Porte County.

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