Duck and goose hunters younger than 16 will be popping away at new flights of migratory birds Saturday and Sunday during the annual junior hunter waterfowl hunting weekend. With the regular season already closed, adults will not be able to shoot with them, but they will be mandatorily chaperoning and assisting the youngsters during the two-day hunt.

The Kern Refuge will be open on Saturday to hunting parties for 50 reservation holders and the balance of 111 spaces filled from the stand-by lottery list.

Usually, only 50 percent of reservations show up, so the refuge personnel are anticipating plenty of room for unattached hunters. Unit One will be closed for the day, but other areas, some hunted for the first time this season, will open to compensate for the loss of the deep water hunting zone.

A free lunch sponsored by the Tulare Basin Wetlands Association will be provided to all shooters and adult chaperones. Juniors need only their licenses as the regular $20 day fee will be waived in an incentive effort to get the kids out to the popular shooting preserve. Drawings start at 4 a.m. sharp, 21/2 hours before the 6:30 a.m. shooting time.

Duck limits remain at seven, with some special regulations, so consult the DFG before hunting.

Local private clubs will also be having their own youth hunts, and with the huge upturn in migratory birds, the action should be great.

Crappie bite starting early

With the water quickly warming into the mid-50s, 12- to 13-inch crappie weighing well over a pound each have already began biting at the Buena Vista Lake complex. Hitting minnows and small jigs near deep water haunts around the grates and tule patches, anglers are reporting 3-10 of the great-eating fish per outing.

Trout also continue to bite at Lake Evans, with new plants spiking the action. Several fish over 10 pounds have been reported this week.

Isabella Lake continues to boot out nice crappie from the 30-foot depths with an occasional catfish or two spicing the action.

Trout plants resume

With final repairs done on the State's hatchery truck, heavy trout planting has already begun again at most of our local lakes. My wife, Candy, and I managed to check out the River Walk Lake several times this week and found excellent fishing for nice-sized rainbows. Hitting spinners and small flies, we had a ball catching and releasing good numbers of the hard-fighting fish after this week's double plant.

After a long hiatus, Truxtun and Ming lakes have also been stocked with even more plantings scheduled for anglers wanting to catch a few fish. "The bite is definitely on," said Clay Rutledge, manager of Bob's Bait Bucket on South Chester Avenue. "The truck's now been doing double duty to try and catch up with the earlier loss of fish by running non-stop during the daytime hours."

Understanding gun control

The best analogy I can think of regarding the difference between legitimate gun owners and gun-toting criminals is like comparing NASCAR racers with drunk drivers.

NRA banquet tonight

The Friends of the NRA fund-raising banquet is at 5:30 p.m. today at at the Bakersfield Elks Club, 1616 30th St. Cost is $50 per person. Lots of raffles, auctions and a great dinner highlight the action. For information, contact Cyndi Benson (661) 205-8569; Kari Auge (661) 316-7959; or John Lindgren (661) 699-4568.

Kern County Gun Club

With the close of the general hunting seasons, the Kern County Gun Club remains open for trap and skeet shooting at a very inexpensive nominal fee for each round. Open to members and nonmembers, the club is located on the North side of the Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area complex.

The club will also host the upcoming 400-target Black Gold Open skeet shoot on March 22-24, giving the general public a chance to watch some of the world's greatest shotgun shooters go for the gold.

Aqueduct stripers

With just a few days of warming weather, even the striped bass in the cement ditch have taken off with gusto. More and more fish in the 6-to 10-pound bracket are showing on Gitzits, swimbaits and the occasional bait fish.

I found time to sample the action a week ago and found two nice striped bass, 6- and an 8-pound fish, eager to smack my light tackle offerings.

The bite remains an early one, with most fish stopping their feeding around 7 a.m., a cold time of the day, so go prepared.

Bait fishermen are also finding a few fish by walking sardines and anchovies downstream from any set of actively flowing gates.