It’s likely you could list a half-dozen ponds with an hour’s drive from home. They’re everywhere—scattered throughout suburban neighborhoods, golf courses, and farm country—and that puts fishing within reach of just about anyone. Pond fishing is accessible, requires relatively little gear, and you don’t have to have a boat to pull out the biggest fish around.
But you do need to know how to fine-tune your fishing to hook a fish worth bragging about—or enough for a family fish fry. Here’s how to strategically fish a pond, picking apart the different habitat types that hold bass, bream, catfish and more. Give it your best cast. And better yet, team up for a great two-person pond adventure. Start along the pond shore and fish in opposite directions until you meet on the other side. Trade tips and fish stories, then finish out the circuit.
Big fish in a small body of water often hole up in obvious cover. The trick is to get your lure or bait to the trophy without disturbing the pond. Before walking to the shoreline, take a few minutes to identity fishy-looking logs that extend into the water, patches of lily ponds, and creek mouths. Then stalk to just within reach for your first few casts.
Popular panfish such as bluegill and shellcrackers will spawn in large, shallow bedding areas. Look for lightly-colored moon-shaped craters. Spinfishermen should toss small spinners or crickets under bobbers. Fly anglers will score with small popping bugs and foam spiders. Tie a black ant to the hook bend with 12 inches of fishing line for a deadly one-two punch.
Finding fish along the pond dam can be tricky. Start at a corner where the deep and shallow water meets, and cast around any fallen trees or weedlines. You can estimate where the submerged creek channel lies by finding the creek outflow on the downstream side of the dam. The underwater channel is a great target for diving lures. And don’t forget to run lures or bait close to the pond drain or spillway structure.
Summer heat pushes fish into deeper water, so add split-shot weights and a sliding bobber to your line and hunt for schooling fish. Steep banks are a clue to deep water close to shore, and don’t overlook the edges of long points and submerged creek channels. Catch a fish, and 50 of its closest friends could be buddied up nearby.
When the sun sets, the cats come out to play. Catfish, that is, so be ready. A couple hours before dark, throw dog food along a stretch of pond shore. That’s where you’ll want to chunk hooks baited with chicken livers or shrimp.
By T. Edward Nickens