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Fish Point State Wildlife Area

Fish Point State Wildlife Area
Phone:

989-674-2511

dnr-wildlife@michigan.gov

Hours of Operation

Open at no charge to the public.

This hunting location conducts daily drawings for free hunting zone permits throughout the open waterfowl season.

Description of the area

Fish Point State Wildlife Area is located on the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron. Consisting of 2,477 acres of exceptional waterfowl habitat, Fish Point offers many types of waterfowl hunting such as marsh areas, flooded corn fields, and dry agriculture fields. Open water hunting on Saginaw Bay is only a short boat ride away. Often referred to as the "Chesapeake of the Midwest" there is an abundance of waterfowl numbers and species that call it home. Ducks are the majority of the harvested waterfowl but Canada geese are present and harvested annually. All hunting zones are accessible with some zones having bridges for access. Excellent late season pheasant hunting exists after the close of the waterfowl season. Along with the hunting opportunities that exist at Fish Point, it is also possible to see many migrating birds. One of the unique sightings is the presence of several snowy owls that spend the winter at Fish Point.

PDF map of area

Hunting Information

  • Morning hunts: Daily 5:30 a.m. (Reserved hunt first and second weekend of duck season)
  • Afternoon hunts: Daily 11:00 a.m. (Reserved hunt first and second weekend of duck season)

Activities

  • Wildlife viewing
  • Birding
  • Hiking
  • Fishing
  • Nature trail hiking
  • Canoeing and kayaking
Coming soon.

Weekly waterfowl count dashboards

Weekly waterfowl counts are conducted annually, September through January. Use these interactive dashboards to view waterfowl counts across the Wetland Wonders for current and previous years. When the dashboard loads, you will have a total count of the Michigan DNR's Managed Waterfowl Hunt Areas (MWHA) for which counts are provided. The pie charts will show distribution across the areas during the currently selected week (week ending date can be changed using the date selector). Select a specific managed area at the top by clicking/tapping on it to see the numbers for that area. Use the navigation at the bottom of the dashboard to view further breakdowns of area waterfowl numbers.

2022 waterfowl counts

2021 waterfowl counts

2020 waterfowl counts

2019 waterfowl counts

2018 waterfowl counts

2017 waterfowl counts

2016 waterfowl counts

Table of contents

2021 annual report

General introduction

The Fish Point State Wildlife Area (FPSWA) is a 2,477-acre managed waterfowl area located 3 miles northwest of Unionville, adjacent to Saginaw Bay. Habitat composition consists of approximately 1,200 acres of diked wetland and meadow. About 720 acres of marshland is a seasonal refuge (September 1 - January 1.) Additionally, there is 1000 acres of impounded crops (corn, buckwheat, and barley) planted for food and winter cover on a yearly basis.

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Area goals and management emphasis

  • Goal 1: Manage for healthy and sustainable populations of wildlife.
    • Objective 1.1: Develop, implement, and revise management plans and guidance for priority game species and focal species of greatest conservation need
  • Goal 2: Protect, manage, and enhance lands for sustainable wildlife populations and wildlife-compatible recreation.
    • Objective 2.4: Maintain and develop public access and habitat management infrastructure for wildlife-compatible recreation and habitat management purposes.
  • Goal 3: Connect people to wildlife, wildlife-compatible recreation, and public lands.
    • Objective 5.3: Foster and promote diverse, equitable and inclusive external engagement and relationships to implement Wildlife Division goals.

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Wildlife production and use estimates

Mallards, Canada geese, black ducks, blue-winged teal and wood ducks are the most common nesting ducks on the area. Small numbers of gadwalls, pintails, northern shovelers, and redheads also nest on the area. In any given year, a reasonable estimate of 150-200 breeding pairs likely produces 750-1200 ducklings. Brood surveys have been conducted on a 4-mile route within the refuge since 1991. Brood surveys were conducted 7 times between June 2 and July 9. Brood production of wood duck at the FPSWA decreased compared to prior years due to the west refuge being drawn down to perform infrastructure maintenance. Outside the refuge, mallard and wood duck production were similar to 2020. Canada goose production decreased compared to 2018 brood counts, however significate goose damage was observed in zones 20-32, which was not seen in prior years when the west refuge had visible water.

Deer numbers fluctuate annually due to habitat conditions, hunting pressure and mortality from a variety of causes. The best way to gauge deer numbers on the area is by their impact on crops, particularly corn. Using this as an indicator, it appeared that increased deer harvest in 2020 helped to minimize crop damage significantly in 2021. It is good to note that soybeans and barley were planted in close proximity to the historically high deer damage areas before and days after the corn was planted, which seemed to play a part in minimizing damage to the hunting zones.

Pheasant brood sightings are recorded each year and generally range from 5-15 broods/year. Spring weather was favorable for pheasant reproduction in 2021. The end of April to early May temperatures were warmer than average with below average rainfall. In June, temperatures were warm with near average precipitation. Despite the ideal nesting conditions, only 8 pheasant broods were observed, which was comparable to 2020. Brood size ranged between 6 and 12 chicks/brood.

Noteworthy non-game wildlife found on the area included great egret, sandhill crane, yellow-headed black bird, American bittern, tundra swan, snowy owl, bald eagle and black-crowned night heron. These species are present at different times of year as regular nesters (yellow-headed black bird, American bittern, sandhill crane and bald eagle) or as migrants (tundra swan, snowy owl) passing through the area on their way to nesting or wintering areas.

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Significant habitat management

  • Applied herbicide to two miles of dikes and 230 acres of bottomlands to control phragmites and brush
  • Reclaimed 40 acres of reed canary grass/brush and converted it back into warm season grasses
  • Mowed 250 acres of decoy openings

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Land acquisition

The DNR acquired the Sattleberg/Bayshore Birds parcel in December 2021.

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Area maintenance

  • Mowed and spot sprayed for brush on 24.5 miles of dike tops
  • Collected trash weekly in parking lots and nature trails Hunter access paths and parking areas were mowed and sprayed
  • Repaired multiple dike breaches to improve and maintain water manipulation capabilities
  • Approximately 5 miles of access road and 14 parking lots were enhanced by grading and spraying
  • Leveled spoil piles in zones 1-3, 14-19 and reshaped the west slope of the center dike of the refuge
  • Installed tubes in the furrow on the northside of 14-19 to make walking access easier for hunters
  • Mowing all dike tops Installed water depth gauges around several of our pumps
  • Aerial sprayed 150 acres of phragmites on the game area Planted warm season grasses throughout the area
  • Burned 70 acres of native vegetation
  • Posted signs at many of our parking lots and property boundaries
  • Improved roads and dikes with gravel for boat ramp and parking lot access
  • Mowed 30 acres of brush and phragmites that was sprayed in 2020

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Equipment

No equipment purchases were made in 2021.

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Special projects

MDNR employees completed the following projects:

  • Finished grading the west dike slope and installing rip rap on the center dike in the refuge. Dredged the ditch on the east side of the center dike and placed spoils on the dike edge. In the summer of 2022, the spoils will be used to reshape the east slope of the center dike.
  • Dredged the ditches on the east and west side of zone 8 and removed the old tube and gate control structure and installed a new stop log water control structure. In summer of 2022, spoils will be used to reshape the interior slopes of the east and west dikes.
  • Mowed Unit 4 in late March and then flooded the entire until to full pool for the remainder of the year. This treatment reduced the phragmites and reed canary grass within the unit and allowed for cattails and other emergent vegetation to flourish making this wetland more productive for waterfowl and wetland species.

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Recreational and educational activities

Our annual spring migration tour and the fish and wildlife education day with USA schools were cancelled in 2021 due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Regardless of Covid-19, bird watching, fishing, and trapping continued to be a popular activity throughout the year at the Fish Point State Wildlife Area.

The sixth annual fall open house took place on September 29th at 6pm. Thirty hunters came from across the state to preview fall hunting conditions, see the improvements that were made over the summer, and ask questions of area staff.

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Trapping

Nine trappers harvested 426 muskrat, 14 mink, seven raccoons, one otter and one beaver.

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Waterfowl banding and surveys

Fish Point staff assisted with banding operations throughout the northern portion of the Southeast Region. There were 34 geese and 86 wood ducks banded at FPSWA in 2021.

A pheasant crowing survey was conducted for the first time at FPSWA in 2021. This is used to assess various habitat improvement to see how the pheasant population at FPSWA is responding to change from year to year. We heard 26 different pheasants crowing from Kindle Road to Dickerson Road.

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Hunting season report: 10/02/2021 through 11/28/2021

Introduction

The FPSWA is one of Michigan’s seven managed waterfowl hunting areas. Permits are required for 79 hunting zones, including 51 standing corn strips. Five zones are in the area’s three permanent marshes. Two additional areas are “scramble zones”, with a capacity for 20 hunters. In 2021, we were open Monday-Sunday 5:00 am to 4:00 pm (during the regular duck season only). In 2021, precautions were implemented to ensure staff and hunter safety. Hunters and staff were required to wear a mask inside the check station and party leaders were the only members of the party allowed to come pick their hunting zones during the draws. We used an FM transmitter to broadcast the daily announcements. Leftovers were available for any hunter that was unable to make the draws.

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Weather and habitat conditions

Spring was warm with near average rainfall amounts in May and June. Farming conditions were favorable at the beginning of May for planting. Corn planting began May 10th and was finished by May 13th. The corn came on strong in all the fields.

Water was readily available and allowed for more than adequate water level management in all zones. Hunting zones were flooded in 6-inch increments to maximize food availability. Hunting zones north of the field office started to be flooded by first week of September and all hunting zones were at full pool by the third week of October.

Several moderate to strong weather fronts moved through the area in October and November, which increased harvest success on those days. Ice impeded hunters from pursuing waterfowl for 4 days during the 2021 season, but the hunters that broke ice were successful.

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Migration and waterfowl numbers

Weekly refuge duck counts increased steadily from September thru the end of October and peaked around November 20 (Figure 1). Duck numbers steadily declined after the third week of November. Total refuge duck counts increased by 48% over 2020. Weekly refuge goose counts climbed gradually through October, counts peaked around the 27th of November and declined thru December. Total refuge goose counts increased 103% compared to last year. Duck and Tundra Swan migration peaked the same week, which is different than past years. The peak of the Tundra Swan migration usually occurs one to two weeks after the peak of the duck migration. Refuge count may be higher than past years for two reasons, one we began putting water in the refuge in the third week of July and kept the water shallow thru mid-September (2-6 inches), water was then added in small increments until water levels reached 12-16 inches deep. The second reason refuge counts may have been higher compared to last year was flooding began in hunting zones the first week of September, which attracted large numbers of mallards, teal and geese. These large numbers of teal and geese brought out hunters in good numbers; therefore, pushing waterfowl into the refuge earlier than past years.

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Season dates and area regulations

  • Ducks
    • Oct. 2 - Nov. 28, 2021 and Dec. 11-12, 2021
  • Goose
    • Sept. 1 - Dec. 16, 2021
  • Youth/Veterans
    • Sept. 18 and 19, 2021

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Hunting season results

Pre-registration

On opening weekend (Oct. 2-3) and the second weekend (Oct. 9-10) there were 35 pre-registered hunts available for each of the morning and afternoon hunts. The PM hunt on opening day was a youth priority drawing. Pre-registered hunters harvested 150 ducks and 37 geese on opening day (.76 ducks/hunter trip). The duck harvest on opening day was down significantly compared to previous years. One factor that may have contributed to this decrease was the goose season, which ran consecutively from September 1st thru December 16th and did not allow for a rest period prior to the opening day of duck season. During the last 10 days of September, 175 hunters harvested 230 geese (1.31 geese/ hunter trip). This increased hunting pressure just before the opening day of duck season seemed to force the majority of the ducks to feed in the hunting zone after shooting hours. The second registered weekend was similar to the first weekend, 323 hunters harvested 124 ducks and 16 geese (0.43 waterfowl/hunter trip).

Youth Hunt/Veterans and Active-Duty U.S. Military Personal Hunt: 120 hunters harvested 112 ducks and 32 geese. Each hunter averaged 1.19 waterfowl/hunter.

Harvest and hunter use

In 2021, Teal/goose hunters’ success was significantly higher than 2020; 395 hunters harvested 304 geese and 73 teal (0.95 waterfowl/hunter trip), compared to 435 hunters harvesting 88 geese and 130 teal (0.5 waterfowl/hunter trip) in 2020. During the last 10 days of September 175 hunters harvested 230 geese (1.31 geese/ hunter trip).

2021 marked the first season for Fish Point being in the Middle Zone. Hunter success was low the first two weeks of the season due to warm weather and high goose hunting pressure up to the opener of the regular duck season. By the third week of the season harvest increased and stayed constant at around one duck/hunter trip the rest of the season (Table 1). Spikes in daily and weekly harvest coincided with weather fronts and the arrival of new birds. Total duck harvest and hunter trips were more than last year (Figure 2). Duck harvest increased by 24% compared to 2020. Hunter trips and ducks harvested were well above the five-year average. It’s worth noting that the ducks/hunter trip was less than the last two years and below the 5-year average. In 2020, leftover hunting zone after the draw where not available. If leftovers were allowed hunter numbers in 2020 would have been closer to the number of hunter trips in 2021, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic this was not allowed to help protect hunters and staff.

Table 1. Harvest summary by week at Fish Point State Wildlife Area, 2021

Date Days Hunter Trips Hunters/Day Ducks Harvested Ducks/Day Ducks/Hunter Trip Cripples Cripples/Hunter Trip
01. Oct. 2-8 7 942 135 793 113 0.84 75 0.08
02. Oct. 9-15 7 639 91 366 52 0.57 50 0.08
03. Oct. 16-22 7 785 112 1111 159 1.42 94 0.12
04. Oct. 23-29 7 1164 166 1206 172 1.04 106 0.09
05. Oct. 30-Nov. 5 7 703 100 705 101 1 68 0.1
06. Nov. 6-12 7 745 106 730 104 0.98 104 0.14
07. Nov. 13-19 7 680 97 851 122 1.25 93 0.14
08. Nov. 20-26 7 639 91 659 94 1.03 54 0.08
09. Nov. 27-28 2 144 72 53 27 0.37 7 0.05
10. Dec. 11-12 2 180 90 335 168 1.86 17 0.09

 

Permits and harvest

In terms of total duck harvest, zones 2-3, 11, 13, 17, 20-22, 25, 28, 53 and 60 accounted for over a third of the total duck harvest on the area (Table 2). Other productive areas included zones 1, 10, 16, 24, 58 and 68.

Table 2. Harvest by zone at Fish Point State Wildlife Area, 2021

Zone # of Hunters Goose Harvest Duck Harvest
01 157 9 158
02 214 10 246
03 253 32 399
04 97 10 30
05 205 37 65
06 150 21 85
07 84 8 8
08 81 0 10
09 102 7 49
10 181 5 180
11 253 21 276
12 143 17 145
13 211 29 205
14 69 4 25
15 158 28 69
16 152 12 191
17 223 15 213
18 145 15 160
19 123 3 124
20 228 31 209
21 273 55 489
22 252 56 309
23 224 29 108
24 189 7 195
25 241 20 414
26 171 11 109
27 93 2 79
28 157 1 227
29 82 4 46
30 26 0 8
31 17 0 22
32 76 8 88
39-44 21 1 8
45 68 1 94
46 86 0 42
47 110 1 72
48 120 4 81
49 119 1 36
50 16 0 18
51 77 4 114
52 101 3 117
53 119 0 217
54 58 8 42
55 65 0 70
56 58 0 53
58 145 9 190
59 84 25 62
60 141 20 202
61 72 30 54
62 80 47 57
63 21 7 29
64 72 3 69
65 27 6 25
66 138 8 102
67 89 10 22
68 131 6 156
69 73 0 100
70-77 17 1 26

 

Species harvest

Sex and age data were not collected from mallards and black ducks at the FPSWA during the 2021 waterfowl season, due to COVID-19.

Mallards were the bulk of the harvest, followed by Green-winged Teal, Canada Geese and Wood Ducks. In 2021, overall waterfowl harvest increased, but Northern Shovelers (323%), Canada Geese (234%) and Wood Duck (78%) harvest were three species that had the highest increase, however, Redhead (-46%) and Blue-winged Teal (-42%) harvest.

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Cropland, marshland and water level management

Sharecroppers used a 101-day corn variety, which stood up well to weather and hunting use in most areas. Most of the corn on the area completed its life cycle by early-September which allowed harvest to occur within the timeframe specified in the sharecropping contracts and allowed for DNR staff to being flooding at the beginning of September.

Fish Point staff planted and maintained 100 acres of corn. Two varieties of corn were used in the 2021 planting season: a 96-day Golden Harvest (14-19 and the 40’s) and a 101-day Cropland (1-3, 9-13 and 20-32). All corns strips that were planted by DNR staff were fertilized with in furrow starter, 2x2, granulated fertilizer (fertilizer mixture was formulated from soil tests) and a side dress application done at corn heights of 24-30 inches prior to a rain fall event. The rain helped to drive Nitrogen into the soil and to minimize evaporation into the atmosphere. Corn and small grains received moisture when needed and barley was sprayed at the ideal time to produce optimal yields. The corn on the area was the best that it has been in the last decade and some hunters stated, “It was the best corn that they had ever seen”. It has been determined that the two corn varieties planted grow well in our soil types and hold up to hunter abuse better than other varieties planted in past years. We plan to use these varieties on the area in 2022.

There were 150 acres of small grains (75 acres barley and 75 acres buckwheat) planted and all produced excellent yields. These small grains drew large numbers of waterfowl wherever they were planted.

Maintenance pumping on 520 acres of impounded wetlands also took place throughout the summer. Water levels were increased gradually beginning in early September and flooding was completed by the third week of October.

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Volunteers and partners

The Fish Point Wildlife Association (FPWA) is the largest provider of financial and volunteer assistance. Fish Point staff has worked cooperatively with this organization for 20 years. In 2021, FPWA volunteers were able to volunteer time towards getting the area ready for the waterfowl season. They purchased supplies to make sure these projects where completed:

  • Bridge maintenance
  • Dressing hunting blinds
  • Sign posting

Thank you to all the volunteers and association members that provided help to the FPSWA throughout the year, this area could not be what it is today without your help.

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Economic benefits

Below are businesses near the FPSWA directly benefitting from the economic activity of area users:

  • The Lamplighter Restaurant, Sebewaing, 20% of total business
  • Marathon Gas Station, Unionville, 15% of total business
  • Sebewaing River Campground, Sebewaing, 13% of total business
  • Sebewaing Harbor Marina, Sebewaing, 13% of total business
  • Jahr Fish Sport Center, Sebewaing, 35% of total business

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  • 11/11/2022 - Veterans preference drawing