Fishing Small Water
With gas prices what they are, it just makes sense to leave the boat at home once on a while. In fact, I’ve been fishing my whole life without ever owning a boat. The simple fact is, no matter where you go, there’s bound to be some fishable water near by. It’s true! If you look around, you’ll probably find hundreds of inland lakes, ponds, rivers and streams; all of which are likely to hold fish.
A lot of folks actually prefer to fish small water over the big lakes for a variety of reasons. First, you’ll save on gas. No matter where you live, it’s probably safe to say that cheap gas is gone forever. It’s not only nice to fish for an entire weekend without burning up $100worth of gas, for some anglers it’s almost a necessity.
Second: You generally have the place to yourself. With everybody heading out to the big lakes, there’s a good chance you’ll find yourself alone at the edge of a mirror-flat pond, contemplating the battle that is about to take place. You can also relax and enjoy the day and the view with no boats or jet-skis buzzing the shore where you’re trying to fish, and no inexperienced anglers casting over your line. It’s just you and nature.
Third: Many of these fish have rarely, if ever, seen a lure; which certainly stacks the odds in your favor. It also increases the odds of catching bigger fish since there is little or no fishing pressure here. On several outings, I’ve pulled in six to seven pound bass, from ponds less than five acres in size, and you can do the same.
And, of course, with a smaller body of water most of the fish are going to be concentrated in a few key areas. This makes shore fishing easier and much more rewarding.
Fishing In Public Parks And Recreation Areas
Not everyone is aware of this, but many of the ponds and lakes in public parks are well stocked. These are very good places to take the kids, because you’re all but guaranteed to catch something. One such lake, a few miles from my house, is about 150 acres in size, and very well stocked. In a single day, we caught pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye, catfish, and more bluegill and crappie than we could count. We did most of this with nothing more than a few dozen night crawlers and bobbers. That’s a lifetime of memories in one short trip, and the whole day cost less than $10.00, and almost no gas.
When do I fish?
I keep my tackle with me all season long. You never know when the mood will strike. My favorite time is in the autumn, though. I like to get to the water early; when dawn is little more than a promise, and I can just see my breath floating on the air. The fish seem to be a little more aggressive in anticipation of the winter. As the water temperatures fall through the sixties, they seem intent on putting on some fat, before they become less active beneath the frozen lakes.
Where Do I Fish?
Small lakes and ponds have the same features that the big lakes have, they’re just a lot easier to find. Lily pads and other weedbeds are usually plentiful and hold bass, walleye, and even big northern pike. Big fish also love to take cover under fallen trees, which make an ideal ambush point from which to grab passing bait fish.
You can often see underwater structure from shore. Submerged tree stumps, rock piles and drop offs are ideal places to drop a lure. Bass and walleye especially love drop offs because they’re close enough to the shallows to make for easy feeding, but offer quick escape from a hungry pike.
If you’re lucky enough to have access to a quarry pond, you’ve probably hit the jackpot! A lot of people never think to fish a quarry, but you can find some monsters here.These are usually relatively small lakes that can be as deep as 200 feet or more.
Once a fish population is established in a quarry, they usually don’t see much fishing pressure, so they tend to be less wary than fish in other places. These ponds are also often isolated, and less susceptible to pollution. The water is usually crystal clear, and offers up plenty of big fish that are safe to eat.
What Lures Should I Use?
Whether you’re fishing the Great lakes, a big reservoir, or a small farm pond, the same principles apply. You never know what’s going to work on any given day, so bring along a variety of lures and live bait.
Fishing jigs along the edge of a weedline or drop-off is a deadly small water technique. Whether you use a twist tail jig or a jig and minnow combination, hungry fish will usually snap these up in a hurry.
Tip: In a tackle box, jigs can become a tangled mess. If you buy a jig kit, they usually come in a handy tote, with separate compartments to keep your jigs organized for easy access.
Using a popper, jitterbug, or other top water lure over weeds and submerged structure can make for some heart pounding fishing action. The first time a trophy sized fish explodes out of a quiet, small pond to grab your lure, you’ll forget about those big lakes. You won’t be able drive by a tiny pond without wondering what might be lurking just below the surface.
Plastic frogs and jitterbugs are two of my favorites. Just make sure your lure matches the color of the bait fish that are already in the lake.
Live bait is often the best way to tempt a finicky fish. Artificial lures work great if they’re the right color and the water conditions are right, but sometimes fish just develop a case of lockjaw. When this happens, there’s no better cure than the real deal.
Worms are one of the most popular baits around, especially for beginners. If you learn a simple technique, called worm grunting, you can find them in your own back yard by the hundreds and they won’t cost you a penny. Grubs, maggots and leeches are also popular for panfish and trout.
You can also catch or buy minnows. These are among the most common prey for most game fish, and if you suspend them off the bottom, you can often catch several species of fish from the same spot.
Just be sure to have a good supply of hooks and sinkers on hand. Live bait is so effective that it’s not uncommon for a fish to swallow the whole rig. You’ll also want to bring along a few extra bobbers, because they have a way of getting caught up and lost in weeds and low tree limbs.
Here’s something to think about before you hit the water. A little organization will help make a trouble free day of fishing. Tackle boxes have a way of becoming cluttered and hard to sift through for the right lure. I like to keep a different box for each type of lure I own. I have one with only crank baits and plugs, another for jigs and jig heads,and a couple for spinner baits and such. I also keep an empty one to stock up before I go.
When I’m ready to go fishing, I take my favorite lures from each box, and transfer them to the empty box. Why carry around 100 crank baits if you’re only going to use a few on the lake you’re going to be fishing? You’re not going to need those 8 inch muskie lures if you’re just going out for some perch or crappie for dinner, right?
Buy Kits- A lot of bass, walleye, and panfish lures are available in self contained kits, and many of them can be used for several species. If you have two or three kits set aside, a simple canvas bag will hold them all and be easier to carry through the woods than a bulky tackle box. And yes, if you’re fishing small ponds, you may very well be hiking through the woods.
Fish love bugs- If fly fishing is something you enjoy, or have always wanted to try, small water fishing is a great opportunity to bring out the fly rod. You can drop a fly onto a heavy weed bed that would swallow any other type of lure.
Always Ask Permission- Many small ponds are privately owned. Always ask permission before tromping around on private property. Many farmers and land owners are happy to let you fish their ponds, as long as you respect their property.
Catch And Release- If you’re fishing on private property, ask before you keep any fish. And, no matter where you fish, don’t keep anything you don’t plan to eat.
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