OUTDOORS FEATURE: Take a trip across the pond

Bluegills taken on flies are just one of several angling pleasures when taking a break from big waters to fish a small lake or pond. (Photo by Bob Kornegay)

Bluegills taken on flies are just one of several angling pleasures when taking a break from big waters to fish a small lake or pond. (Photo by Bob Kornegay)

Oh, how easy it is for fishermen to get caught up in the mindset of big water, big boats and big money. How easy to spend untold hours of travel time, untold gallons of fuel, and, in the end, untold dollars seeking worthwhile angling opportunities.

While big-water/high-cost fishing excursions will always have their rightful place in an angler’s life, there is also much to be said for a more relaxed, laid-back type of angling. That is the fishing one has readily available and nearby in the almost-limitless small-to-medium-size fish ponds that abound in the Deep South.

“Pond fishing is something most of us probably cut our angling teeth on and grew up doing,” avid angler and fisheries biologist George Harper said. “Most of us will also readily admit it is just as much fun as it ever was. An added plus is the fact that the majority of Southern anglers have ready access to one or more ponds on either a permission-granted or daily-fee basis. Many of us are even members of groups that own or lease small bodies of water for our own private fishing pleasure.”

However one obtains the right to fish a pond or ponds, public or private, the summer fishing on such waterways is seldom disappointing. Ponds usually provide good fishing, fun, and fellowship, normally within easy driving distance of home.

“Small pond fishing isn’t unlike fishing on big reservoirs or rivers,” Harper said. “It just has the distinct advantage of providing a fisherman with fewer acres of water in which to locate and catch fish. Whether you are out after bass, bream, or catfish, a well-managed local fish pond can easily fill an important angling niche.”

Harper’s own favorite type of pond is one that contains a respectable number of quality (not necessarily huge) largemouth bass, a decent population of chunky bluegills and redear sunfish (shellcrackers), and enough natural structure and vegetation to support these species. When fishing such a pond, according to Harper, one’s only real dilemma is deciding whether to break out the plugs and plastic worms or dusting off a well-used cricket cage. Or maybe it’s a good time to limber up the fly rod. Decisions, decisions. “Problems” like these can normally be worked out with very little stress and strain.

The diminutive surface area of most ponds often enables the bass angler to work the entire body of water using various lures and techniques until he hits upon a method and bait that works for him on any given day.

“This is often impossible on a large reservoir or river and the resulting frustration sometimes encountered on big water can usually be avoided when pond fishing,” Harper explained. “True, the challenge is not always the same, but when the ultimate goal is catching fish, the pond is often the best destination option. And where else can a fisherman catch and release bass in double figures on a reasonably consistent basis?”

For a really fun fishing outing, take a cage full of crickets, a couple of bream poles, and the kid of your choice to your favorite pond.

“There’s no better way to introduce a child to fishing,” said Harper. “If you go in late spring or summer, the bluegills and shellcrackers are normally quite cooperative and your young buddy is very likely to become hooked on angling at an early age. Just read the papers, listen to the local gossip, and watch the news and you’ll see that there are much worse addictions and activities than the compelling urge to go wet a hook.”

If one wishes to add a little variety to the tried-and-true methods of fishing for bass or bream, a pond can provide the perfect angling venue.

“Many ponds are perfect places to hone and practice your fly-fishing skills,” Harper offered. “The long rod and a pocketful of tiny popping bugs or bass flies can provide hours of enjoyment even for Deep South flatlanders who wouldn’t know a mountain trout from a threadfin shad. A two-pound bass or hand-size bluegill caught on a fly rod can rejuvenate even the most jaded angler. I guess what I’m trying to say is, fly fishing on a pond is often just plain good for the soul.”

Another advantage to pond fishing is that it usually requires little save a minimal amount of basic fishing tackle and the means and ability to get to one’s destination. No $50,000 bass rig is necessary and there is little need for more than one or two rods and reels. Battered johnboats and canoes are the “luxury” vehicles of the pond. Besides, a trusty paddle or trolling motor seldom malfunctions and never runs out of gas.

Also, there are few dos and don’ts when it comes to pond fishing. The only hard-and-fast rule is plain old common courtesy. Namely, if the pond you are fishing does not belong to you, make certain you respect the rights of the person who owns it. Follow to the letter any rules and guidelines set forth by anyone who allows you access to his property and you’ll most likely be welcome and, just as important, be invited back again.

“And, if you are granted permission to fish,” Harper concluded, “don’t fail to appreciate and cherish your time spent on these small waters. Some of your fondest memories are waiting to be made on the fisherman-friendly waters of a local fish pond. Especially in the company of your favorite fishing buddy.”