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Outdoors columnist Steve Merlo had to travel well to the north to take these nice greenhead mallards last week above Fresno. Hunting with longtime friend Daryl Lamonica, the two took easy limits, which included 10 mallards and four wigeon

Hey, don't shoot the messenger here, but the new 2014 fishing licenses, effective New Year's Day, are on sale and they've gone up in price once again. Anglers 16 and older will have to put out $46.44 for a basic license this year, which, in my opinion, is ridiculous and as close to wholesale robbery as our state government can get.

On top of the general license fees, those fishermen wishing to use two rods will have to purchase a two-rod validation for an additional $14.30, making the total output $60.74 for a year's worth of angling. And that does not include other stamps and specialty validations needed to chase sturgeon, steelhead, salmon and other species.

Not happy? Get a hold of your assembly member and raise holy-you-know-what with them. Some how, somewhere, this fleecing hooliganism has to stop.

BV trout plant

Along with the great weather we've been having, fishermen are finding excellent fishing at several lakes in the area. Buena Vista's Lake Evans, home of the county's Trophy Trout Program, received two fair-sized plants of good sized rainbow trout this week and forecasts are for excellent fishing. Some larger rainbows have been stocked, but the majority of the fish are less than 3 pounds each.

Besides the trout, other anglers visiting the twin-lake complex are also finding several different species on the prowl. Some extra large blue catfish, some in the 20- to 30-pound range, have been biting well at both lakes, especially for those anglers using fresh shad for bait. Most of the fish are being taken in water less than 5 feet deep.

A decent evening bite for crappie has also started up, with some of the larger fish hitting the 2-pound mark. Best baits for the soft-mouthed crappies have been live minnows suspended several feet below a lighted bobber.

Despite the cold weather, Brite Lake, located near Tehachapi, has received several trout plants in the last few weeks and, while the pressure on them is low, the bite has been red hot.

The Riverwalk has also received several plants, and the fishing remains excellent. Fly fishermen continue to take the bulk of the fish with their tiny sub-surface imitations while bait dunkers are getting their share early and late in the day.

Nacimiento spotted bass

While the majority of keeper fish being caught are on the smaller size, anglers visiting Nacimiento, the "Dragon-shaped" lake located near Paso Robles, should find plenty of action on fish to 2 pounds.

With the popular "Cary Nasalroad Hangover Tournament" looming on Wednesday for Kern County residents, anglers pre-fishing the lake are finding the hard fighting spots in a variety of locations around the drought impacted reservoir. Although severely drawn down, there's still plenty of water to fish, but anglers are nonetheless being warned to take care while boating and keep an eye on their depth finders.

Small, baseball sized rocks in the 5- to 10-foot zone are providing the bulk of the action on crankbaits, swimbaits and plastic worms.

Jigs, spoons and dartheads fished on the deeper structures to 30-feet are also making contact with fish that are up one day and down deep the next while they chase schools of roving shad. Occasionally, some anglers are making solid contact with the lake's famous white bass population, but once again, the reports are spotty.

Last shot for rockfish

Fishermen wanting to fill their freezers with delicious-eating rock fish and ling cod need to get a move on. The season ends Tuesday for both southern and northern waters. Anglers will have to wait until March 1 to hit them again south of Point Conception, while northern fishermen will be unable to pursue them until May 1.

Right now, in the face of excellent weather and calmer seas, the fishing has been red hot at a variety of landings up and down the coast. Ling Cod, the great-eating, voracious, tooth- filled predators have been extra good this year with plenty of fish over 10 pounds and lots of limits reported. Overall, anglers are reporting some of their best ocean fishing in years.

Duck hunting slows

Waterfowl hunters are once again facing tough shooting in the face of all the warm weather affecting the southern San Joaquin Valley. Until winter rains and cold winds force the birds to continue their southward migrations, hunters will be strapped for quality shooting. Most of the ducks in the area are shovelers, with a smattering of teal and gadwalls making up the bulk of local birds. Mallards and Sprig, the so-called glamour birds, remain locked up in the refuges north of Sacramento. The general waterfowl season closes Sunday, Jan. 26.