A lack of precipitation has resulted in lower than normal water levels in the marshes at Market Lake this year, with some areas being only a few inches deep. “It has been a very dry year on the WMA with less than three inches of rainfall so far,” says Market Lake Manager Brett Gullett. “That is only 60 percent of the average precipitation we usually receive.”
While not great news for boaters, shallow water levels will make the marshes at Market Lake extremely attractive to migrating waterfowl and other species that gain access to critical food resources as water depths decrease. Greater food availability means more ducks for hunters to enjoy, but they may have to wade or walk-in to reach them. “If people are willing to change up their tactics a bit and do some pre-season scouting I think they will be pleasantly surprised at the abundance of birds they will find feeding on the newly exposed aquatic vegetation and aquatic invertebrates,” says Gullett.
Some additional management efforts will be implemented this season to increase waterfowl hunting opportunity for those displaced by the lack of boating access on the marshes. Several of the agricultural fields on the north end of Market Lake will be flooded regularly leading up to and during the first few weeks of waterfowl season. These newly flooded fields contain a variety of both planted seed crops and native plants that will bring an additional forage component to attract birds and increase the amount of hunting opportunity on the WMA.
Water levels are expected to rise later in the season with cooler temperature and the anticipation of rain. As access improves, hunters may notice strips of cattails in the marshes that have been treated using a safe and selective herbicide. These treatments are part of a multi-year management strategy to improve the overall health of the marsh and provide open space. Future prescribed burns will remove the dead cattails and create pathways and openings to areas that were previously inaccessible to waterfowl and hunters alike.
To learn more about hunting opportunities on Market Lake Wildlife Management Area or other properties managed by the Idaho Fish and Game click here.