The Joy And Art Of Farm Pond Fishing
Fishing a small pond is relaxing and it can be very productive.
We all know the big reservoirs get most of the ink in magazines and air time on the television. Anglers who can consistently catch fish on the big lakes are undoubtedly good fishermen. But if you want to know the real secret to consistently catching fish, whether they be largemouth bass, shellcrackers, bluegills or catfish, then you need to go farming. Georgia farm ponds offer the best of most species when it comes to size and numbers. Like the man on TV says, “I guarantee it.”
The stories I could tell about fishing these little jewels are too numerous to count. Once I accidentally (I think it was an accident) dumped a young lady in the drink out of my jonboat, and she still hasn’t forgiven me—even after 30 years of marriage. Another time I forcefully set the hook on a topwater plug, and although I missed the fish, I was fortunate enough to nail my hat to my head. The ensuing trip to the doctor’s office was highly embarrassing.
I told the lady at the desk I needed to talk to the doc, and when she asked why I told her I’d rather keep it private. I think she thought I had a “social disease,” because my old doctor friend had a dose of penicillin and a smirk on his face when I went in.
Your adventures may not be as colorful, but the fun you’ll have fishing ponds will give you a lifetime of memories. There are all kinds of advantages to fishing these under-used waters. There are no boats buzzing and bouncing you. You’re in a beautiful, quiet setting. And maybe even more importantly, there’s a lot less expense. Pound-for-pound, you will spend far less money and have more fun hitting the ponds.
Maybe you’re a hardcore hunter who doesn’t spend much time on the water but is curious about that pond at the hunting club? Maybe you’re an angler who wants to get back to those roots—or sprout them for a youngster? Or maybe you’re just looking for somewhere you can spend an afternoon catching a stringer of fish for the fryer? Whatever the reason, farm ponds can provide that laid-back experience that many feel fishing was meant to be.
In order to take advantage of this resource, you need to start getting permission from as many pond owners as possible. You don’t want to worry an individual with constant requests to go fishing, so start building your options. The only way to do this is to simply ask. There are plenty of pond owners who will be willing to let you go fishing, but don’t get your feelings hurt or become discouraged if they refuse. They have their reasons and obviously every right to say no, and there are plenty of other farm ponds out there.
When an owner does give you permission to use their pond, you want to do what you can to maintain the relationship. Make sure you ask the right questions right off the bat. Find out what the ground rules are, and do not deviate from them.
• Should we keep fish or not?
• What size and species of fish do you want to leave in or take out?
• Do we need to park in a particular place, lock certain gates, let you know ahead of time if we are going?
• Can we take a friend along?
In order to establish a long-lasting relationship, it is imperative you leave the place litter free, and it’s a great idea to take along a weed-eater and clean up around the banks if that’s what the owner wants, or offer to help out in some other way. Volunteering to fertilize the pond is another idea. And one of the very best things you can do is clean some fish and give them to the pond owner who has so graciously allowed you on their property.
Let’s Go Fishing
Once you have a few ponds lined up, it’s time to start evaluating them. Each one is going to be different, and part of the fun is figuring out what you can expect from each as well as how to catch the fish in that particular pond. Over time you will know where to go to catch a mess of bream or catfish and which pond offers the best chance to catch some quality largemouths or that sought-after wall-hanger.
Tackle and equipment are the next considerations, and as mentioned earlier the requirements are minimal. For me the basic requirements are: A small aluminum boat (12-foot length is ideal) with a couple of mounted seats. You also will need a trolling motor and battery along with a well-stocked, versatile tackle box that allows you to change tactics or targets at any time. If you prefer fishing from the bank, your list is even shorter. Just leave off the boat, motor and battery.
I like to have two or three dependable rods and reels for bass fishing (I prefer baitcasters) as well as two or more reels for smaller fish like bream and crappie (my choice is spinning outfits). I typically use 12-lb. test line on the baitcasters and 6- or 8-lb. test on the spinning outfits.
Needless to say, the list for tackle could go on endlessly, but see some tackle suggestions for a basic bass box in “The Tackle Box” above. I know the lures on that list will catch bass on a consistent basis in most conditions you’re likely to encounter on farm ponds. Additionally, I would suggest some size 10 or smaller barrel swivels, at least one extra spool of 12-lb. and one of 8-lb. test line and a pair of needlenose pliers.
Here are a couple of additional things I’ve learned through the years. We are all guilty of looking for the latest, greatest thing to catch more fish. Some of the things I’ve listed here have been around for many years and are still highly efficient for bringing home the bacon. Most of the time you are going to catch bass in or close to cover that’s in proximity to the primary forage fish for that pond and at a depth that is appropriate for the water temperature the bass are comfortable in. You can get scientific about it, but it is really pretty simple, especially in a farm pond where fish don’t have much room to roam.
Put a Kid on Some Bream Beds
Another one of my favorite targets in farm ponds is big shellcrackers and bluegills. More than any other type of fishing, farm ponds have other water bodies beat hands-down when it comes to bream fishing.
Actually, I like to do this with kids because some of my best memories are of taking them on an excursion that will get them hooked for life. Watching a 10-year-old struggling with a feisty bluegill is an unforgettable experience.
The key to success for the young ones is plenty of action, so do your homework. Make sure you know when and where to fish so the kids will not get bored. A few days before and after the full moons of summer are always good times to find bedding fish, and I usually try to locate convenient places to fish from the bank. If the place you choose is shady, so much the better. There’s nothing that can ruin a fishing trip for the little ones faster than a hot day. That said, a cooler loaded with cold drinks and a few snacks is a good idea.
Equipment needs are minimal, but bring a full complement of patience because they are going to need help, and you might not do much fishing yourself. There will be tangled lines, hooks to bait and fish to take off.
About all you really need are a couple of bream busters (the modern version of cane poles) loaded with 6- or 8-lb. test line, small split-shot, a cork and some No. 6 or 8 hooks. That, along with some red wigglers or crickets, will do the trick. Even though you can buy bait easily, there is some merit to digging for worms. You would be amazed at the fun kids can have with that.
I’m also going to let you pros in on a secret that will save you a bunch of aggravation. Don’t laugh at me when I tell you to include a slender 40-penny nail in your tackle box. Yep, that strange piece of equipment is an absolute must for bream fishing and here’s why: Big bluegills and especially shellcrackers are notorious for sucking down a worm and hook past the point of easy retrieval. When you get one of these gut-hooked bream, just stick the pointed end of the nail down into their mouth and a little way (a half inch for smaller fish to more than an inch for big ones) into their gullet, hold the line against the nail with your thumb and forefinger. Spin the fish around a few times, and the hook will easily come out, allowing you to toss the fish in a bucket and get back to fishing. Don’t believe it? Try it next time.
Here are a couple more tips for bream fishing with the little ones. If they start to get restless, take a bank excursion and hunt for treasure. It’s amazing, but frogs, grasshoppers and turtles can have as much entertainment value as fish. Remember that the object of the exercise is to have fun so they will want to come back. Oh, and watch out for those dreaded fresh cow patties. A little tennis shoe full of manure can be a real downer.
Catfish and Lies
Another good resource in most farm ponds is catfish, and this can be lots of fun for kids and grownups. Fishing from the bank is still a good way to go here, but instead of bream busters you probably need to use some kind of simple rod-and-reel outfits loaded with 10- or 12-lb. test line.
For the kids, especially if they are true beginners, a spincast reel like a Zebco 33 is easy to learn to throw and is strong enough for most fish. Catfish will bite a wide variety of offerings such as worms, chicken livers, cut bait and even hot dogs. If you want to get fancy, you can also buy blood baits in places like Walmart. Medium-sized hooks and a little lead will put you in business. No need for corks when fishing for catfish. They are bottom feeders.
The action for catfish may not be fast enough for the kids, so it’s not the best option for beginners, but for just pure lazy enjoyment it is hard to beat. A few lawn chairs, cold beverages and the telling and retelling of old fishing lies is the charm in this time-honored tradition. The bonus is a mess of fried catfish, a classic Southern meal few can resist. Remember the landowner with a mess of catfish, and there’s a good chance you’ll be invited back.
Regardless of the species you’re after, farm ponds hold a wealth of fishing that can lead to enjoyment and memories to fill your fishing journal—and livewell—to overflowing. So get out there, and ask around. The result will be more fish, more fun and less expense. Who can argue with that?
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