by Bob Kornegay
Farm ponds are indelibly etched in modern American angling history. Countless fishermen have wet their first hook and caught their first fish from the confines of these diminutive rural waterways. What’s more, many anglers never outgrow their fondness for the mini “reservoirs.”
“Pond fishing is something we cut our angling teeth on and grow up doing,” said avid small-water fisherman George Harper. “Most of us also consider it just as much fun now. Most anglers, I think, have at least minimal access to one or more farm ponds within easy driving distance of home. Plus, a pond is easily fished, doesn’t require a lot of expense and if it’s well managed can rival some of the best big lakes in fishing quality.”
Farm ponds come in varying sizes, depths and shapes and can be grassy, woody, or totally devoid of cover. Nationwide, the most popularly stocked farm pond fish species are largemouth bass, bluegills and channel catfish. Redear sunfish (shellcrackers) are favored in some regions and black crappies, if very carefully managed, may do well in some ponds.
Harper’s favorite pond type is a multi-shaped 3- to 5-acre waterway with deep and shallow sections containing enough natural structure and vegetation to support a balanced population of bass and bluegills.
“Pond fishing isn’t unlike fishing on large reservoirs,” Harper said, “but there’s one distinct advantage. There’s less water, which means less time spent looking for fish and figuring out how to catch them.
“Take bass, for instance,” he continued. “Where are they? What do they want today? Do I throw spinnerbaits, worms, jerkbaits, or topwater stuff? In a pond I can fish the same areas multiple times during the same outing using different baits and presentations. This is often impossible on big water. The challenge isn’t the same, but when the ultimate goal is catching fish, a pond is a great option.
“I approach pond fishing for bass exactly as I do big-lake fishing — same lures, same techniques. The difference is in a pond I have time to try them all if I need to,” the angler concluded.
When fishing for bluegills or other panfish the approach is the same.
“In a pond you have the luxury of fishing until you find them,” Harper noted. “I like to keep moving and cast small spinners on ultralight tackle. If the bream are bedding I’ll switch to live bait (earthworms or crickets) fished beneath a small bobber. For crappies, I normally stick with artificials. A lot of pond owners prefer not to run the risk of having minnows or other live baitfish released into their ponds. If I’m catfishing I’ll anchor, up-size my tackle and fish earthworms or stinkbait on the bottom.”
For a fun fishing outing, take a cage of crickets, a few earthworms, a couple of bream poles or rods and the kid of your choice to a favorite pond.
“There’s no better way to introduce a child to fishing,” Harper said. “In spring and summer the bluegills and catfish are very cooperative and your young buddy is likely to get hooked on angling at an early age. I’ve never met a kid — and not too many grownups — who didn’t enjoy a feisty bluegill on light tackle or a hefty channel catfish that gobbles up his live bait off the bottom. And, again, on a pond a youngster gets to spend more time catching fish and less time looking for fish and getting bored.”
According to Harper, ponds are also good places to hone one’s fly-fishing skills.
“Even fly fishermen who wouldn’t know a mountain trout from a threadfin shad can fly fish in a pond,” he said. “All they need is a few popping bugs or bass flies. A 2-pound bass or hand-size bluegill caught on a fly rod is a ton of fun.”
Quarry and fishing method notwithstanding, pond fishing requires little save basic fishing tackle and the 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. Johnboats and canoes are the “luxury” vehicles in a farm pond.
There are few dos and don’ts when it comes to pond fishing. The only hard-and-fast rule is plain common courtesy. If the pond you’re fishing doesn’t belong to you, respect the rights of its owner. Follow to the letter any rules and guidelines set forth and you’ll most likely be welcome and invited to return.
“And if you are granted permission to fish a pond,” Harper concluded, “appreciate your time spent there. Some of my fondest fishing memories are the ones I’ve made fishing in local farm ponds. I treasure them.”