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Fish Point State Wildlife Area

Fish Point State Wildlife Area

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

Week in review

Through 12/09/2023

Weather

Nighttime temperatures were in the high teens with highs reaching the low 40s.

Waterfowl abundance

Waterfowl numbers continue to decline but there are still good numbers of Mallards, Black Ducks and Geese on the area.

Hunting conditions

Hunting zones 1–3 currently has 7–9ft tall corn. Water levels vary between 13–17 inches in zone 1–3.

Marsh zones 4–8 all have camouflaged blinds and water levels varies between 8–24 inches.

The corn height in zones 9–13 varies between 8–9.5ft tall and should provide ample food for migrating waterfowl and adequate cover for hunters. Water levels in 9–12 vary from 12–36 inches.

Corn heights in 14–19 vary from 7.5–9.5ft. Currently water levels vary from 12–20 inches.

The corn in zones 20–32 varies in height from 8–9.5ft. Zones 22–23, 26, 29 and 32 have blinds that hunter can hunt from. Hunters can expect to see 11–26 inches of water.

Currently, the corn in zones 45–49 is 7–9.5ft tall. Zone 48–49 each have a camouflaged blind, if hunters want to get out of the water. Water depth in zones 45–49 vary from 12–26 inches.

Currently, corn in zones 50–56 is 7–8ft tall. Zones 50–56 have 8–16 inches of water to float decoys.

The corn cover in 58–69 has reached 6.5–8ft tall. Currently zones 58–69 have 6–20 inches of water.

The corn in the 70s is 7–8ft tall and should produce good cover and food for migrating waterfowl this fall. There are two (2) 60ft strips of corn that extend the length of the field. These strips will provide hunters with plenty cover to hide and ample food for waterfowl throughout the season.

Buckwheat, barley, winter wheat and moist soil plants are around most hunting zones and will provide a food source for waterfowl throughout the hunting season.

Hunter numbers

The highest draw that we had the last week of season was 15 parties. We had a total of 98 hunters that came out to hunt. Total hunters since the beginning of regular duck season thru December 3, 2023, is 6320.

Waterfowl harvest

Total harvest thru 12/3/23 is 6841 ducks and 447 geese (1.08 ducks/hunter trip). The last week of season we harvested 68 ducks and 0 geese in 98 hunter trips (0.7 ducks/hunter trip).

What to expect this week

During the week temperatures are predicted to be in the low 20s at night, with highs reaching the low 40s. Currently steady winds are predicted thru Saturday afternoon, so despite the cold nighttime temperatures’ fields should have little to no ice coverage for the two day split on December 16th and 17th.

Upcoming events

Deer/pheasant hunting drawings will be held at 12 p.m. on...

  • December 10th (Hunting Period: Dec. 11th through Dec. 15)
  • December 17th (Dec. 18th through January 1st.)

    A draw will be held for the two day split that will take place on December 16th and 17th.

Other comments

Trappers may come in and fill out a trapping permit by, appointment only, from Dec. 5 through Jan. 1st. (Trapping will not begin until Jan 2, 2024).

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.

2023 waterfowl counts

2022 waterfowl counts

2021 waterfowl counts

2020 waterfowl counts

2019 waterfowl counts

2018 waterfowl counts

2017 waterfowl counts

2016 waterfowl counts

Table of contents

2022 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 5 times between June 14 and July 12. Brood production of wood duck at the FPSWA was low despite having water in both sides of the refuge. Outside the refuge, mallard and wood duck production were similar to 2021. Canada goose production increased compared to 2021 brood counts, however minimal goose damage was observed in zones 20-32, 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 decreased deer harvest in 2021 increase the crop damage significantly in 2022. 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 some of the damage to the hunting zones.

Pheasant brood sightings are recorded each year and generally range from 5-15 broods/year. Conditions were ideal for brood production in the months of April and early May, temperatures were warmer than average with below average rainfall. In June, temperatures were on the cool side with below average precipitation.

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 8.5 miles of dikes and 300 acres of bottomlands to control phragmites and brush
  • Rented a forestry mower for 150hr and reclaimed 200 acres of coastal wetlands/warm season nesting habitat.
  • Mowed 250 acres of decoy openings

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Land acquisition

No land was acquired at FPSWA in 2022.

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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 spoils piles in zones 8, 14-32, 47-49 and reshaped the 3/4mile of spoils in the refuge zones
  • Installed tubes in the furrow on the southside of 20-24 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
  • Burned 70 acres of wetland vegetation at the Gaedes Marsh
  • 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 175 acres of brush and phragmites that was sprayed in 2021

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Equipment

FPSWA was given hunter dollars to purchase a John Deere 6175R and M20 bat wing mower.

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Special projects

MDNR employees completed the following projects:

  • Finish grading and seeding of the dike top and east slope on the center dike in the refuge.
  • Dredged and dozed spoils from the agricultural ditches on the south and east side of zone 47-48, as well as, the ditches on the south and west side of zone 49.
  • Dredged the ditch on the west side of the south Gaedes Marsh from Loomis/Kirk road intersection north to the turn a round at the end of Kirk road. In summer of 2023, spoils will be used to reshape the interior slope of the dike.
  • Re-formed the interior dikes slope that surrounded zone 8 using the ditch spoils excavated in 2021. Overseeding was complete on the dike side to aid in soil stabilization.
  • Dredge spoils were removed and leveled on the south side of zone 14-19 to aid in flooding and dewatering.
  • The northeast dike of the north Gaedes marsh was leveled

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Recreational and educational activities

Our spring migration tour was cancelled in 2022 but we hope to bring it back in spring of 2023.

The fish and wildlife education day with USA schools was a success, 46 third grade kids and numerous parents walked the nature trail and listened to a talk on wetlands and wildlife presented by Fish Point staff. The Fish Point Wildlife Association assisted with event setup and provided lunch for everyone.

Numerous bird watchers, kayakers, fisherman, and trappers also use the Fish Point State Wildlife Area throughout the year.

The seventh annual fall open house took place on October 5th at 6pm. Seventeen adults and 3 kids 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

Only 2 trappers showed up for our mandatory trappers meeting and due to health reason didn’t get the opportunity to trap the area. Because of the lack of turn out for the 2022 trappers meeting, staff decide to give out trapping permits beginning November 1st for the 2023 trapping season that began at FPSWA on January 2, 2023.

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Waterfowl banding and surveys

Fish Point staff assisted with banding operations throughout the northern portion of the Southeast Region. Staff at FPSWA banded 275 geese, 26 where banded within 3 miles of FPSWA headquarters and 90 wood ducks were banded in the refuge at FPSWA in 2022.

A pheasant crowing survey was conducted for the second time at FPSWA in 2022. This survey was conducted to see if our management activities in our upland complexes were positively influencing pheasant brood production. A total of 28 male pheasants were heard crowing and 4 pheasant were visibly seen (2 roosters, 2 hens) in a 2.5 mile long transect through the FPSWA.

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Hunting season report

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 2022, we were open Monday-Sunday 5:00 am to 4:00 pm (during the regular duck season only). In 2022, precautions were implemented to ensure staff and hunter safety. Hunters and staff had the ability 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 temperatures were warm with below average rainfall amounts. Farming conditions were favorable at the beginning of May for planting. Corn planting began May 16th and was finished by May 18th. The corn came on strong in all the fields, but we had some deer damage in zone 23, 25 and 31-32.

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 2022 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 19 (Figure 1). Duck numbers steadily declined after the third week of November. Weekly refuge goose counts climbed gradually through October, counts peaked around the 19th of November and declined thru December. Duck and Tundra Swan migration peaked the same week, which is not common, but has happened the past two 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 past years 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. 8 – Dec. 4, 2022 & Dec. 17-18, 2022
  • Goose
    • Sept. 1- Sept. 30, 2022 & Oct. 8-Dec. 23, 2022
  • Youth/Veterans
    • Sept. 17 & 18, 2022

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Hunting season results

Pre-registration

On opening weekend (Oct. 8-9) and the second weekend (Oct. 15-16) 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 303 ducks and 127 geese on opening day (1.42 ducks/hunter trip). The duck harvest on opening day was up significantly compared to last year but down compared to previous years. One factor that may have contributed to this decrease was the goose season, which ran consecutively from September 1st thru September 30th and only had an 8 day break until it reopened on October 8 and continued thru December 23th. A period of no waterfowl hunting prior to the opening day of duck season is crucial for hunters to be successful in the beginning of ducks season. The 8 day period of rest in between the end of early goose season and beginning of the duck season was a noticeable difference. In 2022, large numbers of waterfowl were seen feeding during the daylight hours in the fields at FPSWA and the hunter success after 14 days of hunting was nearly 3x higher (1159 ducks harvested in 2021 and 3146 ducks harvested in 2022) than it was in 2021 season after the same number of days hunted.

Youth Hunt/Veterans and Active-Duty U.S. Military Personal Hunt:
58 hunters harvested 26 ducks and 11 geese. Each hunter averaged 0.64 waterfowl/hunter.

Harvest and hunter use

In 2022, Teal/goose hunters’ success was significantly lower than 2021; 493 hunters harvested 143 geese and 39 teal (0.37 waterfowl/hunter trip), compared to 395 hunters harvesting 304 geese and 73 teal (0.95 waterfowl/hunter trip).

2022 marked the second season for Fish Point being in the Middle Zone. Hunter success was high the first two weeks of the season due to favorable duck hunting weather and limited hunting pressure 8 days prior to opening day. By the third week of the season harvest decreased and stayed 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 was more than last year (Figure 2). Hunter trips and ducks harvested were well above the five-year average. It’s worth noting that the ducks/hunter trip was above the 5-year average.

Table 1. Harvest summary by week at Fish Point State Wildlife Area, 2022

Date Days Hunter Trips Hunters/Day Ducks Harvested Ducks/Day Ducks/Hunter Trip Cripples Cripples/Hunter Trip
Oct. 8–14 7 1109 158 1386 198 1.25 175 0.16
Oct. 15–21 7 1096 157 1760 251 1.61 202 0.18
Oct. 22–28 7 653 93 510 73 0.78 57 0.09
Oct. 29–Nov. 4 7 589 84 543 78 0.92 59 0.10
Nov. 5–11 7 838 120 733 105 0.87 89 0.11
Nov. 12–18 7 730 104 1078 154 1.48 119 0.16
Nov. 19-25 7 244 35 209 30 0.86 17 0.07
Nov. 26–Dec. 2 7 493 70 537 77 1.09 77 0.16
Dec. 3–4 2 241 121 128 64 0.53 26 0.11
Dec. 17–18 2 30 15 1 1 0.03 3 0.10

Permits and harvest

In terms of total duck harvest, zones 1-3, 10-11, 21 and 25 accounted for over a third of the total duck harvest on the area (Table 2). Other productive areas included zones 12-13, 15-20, 22, 28, 53 and 60.

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Species harvest

Sex and age data were not collected from mallards and black ducks at the FPSWA during the 2022 waterfowl season, due to COVID-19 and high path avian influenzas.

Mallards were the bulk of the harvest, followed by Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail and Canada Geese. In 2022, overall waterfowl harvest decreased, but Mallards (15%), Redhead (55%) and Gadwall (35%) harvest were three species that had the highest increase, however, Green-winged Teal (-29%), Wood Duck (-37%) and Canada Goose (-27%) harvest decreased compared to 2021.

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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 108 acres of corn. Two varieties of corn were used in the 2022 planting season: a 96-day Golden Harvest (9-19 and 47-49) and a 101-day Cropland (1-3, 20-32, 45-46 and 66-67). 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 enough moisture to produce a fair yield but the lack of rain in June seemed to affect the strength of the top 1/3 of the corn stalk. In early November a strong wind event broke off the top 1/3 of the corn plants in several zones reducing the ability to use it for hunting cover. The majority of the corn on the area was very sturdy and held up the entire season, but the zones that were planted at approximately 30,500 plants/acre seemed to hold up the best to wind and hunter use. 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 2023.

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 2332 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 21 years. In 2022, 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
  • Wood duck replacement and maintenance
  • Mowing access paths
  • Trimming around gates and signs
  • Painting gates and the welcome sign

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’s Sporting Goods, Sebewaing, 35% of total business
  • Log Cabin Gas Station and Dinner 15% of total business

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Get out and explore Michigan's Wetland Wonders, our managed waterfowl hunt areas, this fall. Held in early October, these open houses will give you a chance to talk with local staff, tour the areas and see what each one has to offer for the upcoming waterfowl season. 

  • Fish Point (Tuscola County) – Oct. 4. 

All open houses begin at 6 p.m. at the area's headquarters.