There’s a young man and his wife in Jacksonville who are living the dream of most married Floridians. They have good jobs, and own a nice house on a little lake in a large and well-manicured Northeast Florida country club community. But unlike most of their golf-playing neighbors, my friend and his bride get more enjoyment fishing on golf course water hazards than hitting white balls along green fairways.
“No one fishes our golf course ponds much,” he said with a broad smile, while requesting anonymity to protect his country club fishing lifestyle. “And the lakes are loaded with bass, and there are plenty of crappies and bream, too. But it’s the bass fishing that’s so incredible.
“In a six-month fishing stint working golf course ponds — from shore, and some on public courses — I’ve caught countless bass, and many fish weighing over 8 pounds, including several over 10 pounds. My wife has had great fishing, too, including taking her biggest bass, an 8 1/2-pounder.”
My friend has a regular route he fishes on his local golf course, usually in late afternoons when most duffers have already headed to the clubhouse. An ideal afternoon is following a late thunderstorm, which sends golfers scurrying for the 19th hole. Usually by 6 or 7 p.m. the showers subside. The course is vacant, since most golfers don’t resume rounds that late in the day.
But it’s prime time for “run-and-gun” golf pond fishing. He dons a small fanny pack loaded with a Spartan mix of tackle, such as spare lures and hooks, and heads for the course.
Driving to road overpasses crossing small creeks and ponds around his golf course community, my friend parks safely along roadsides or in neighbor driveways — with permission. He then walks the course, adjacent to pond edges, casting for bass as he goes. Much of the time his wife accompanies him, and in a typical two-hour after-work fishing trip, they catch six to 12 bass, averaging 2 to 3 pounds. There’s nearly always a few bigger fish.
“We never keep bass because they put so much fertilizer and pesticides on courses. I’m leery of eating fish where run-off flushes in,” he stated. “But that undoubtedly is the reason fishing is so good in golf course ponds. Bass and other fish grow fast because the water is fertile, and almost all fish caught by anglers are released. This is why big fish aren’t culled from fishing pressure.”
I once had a Florida “grand slam” fishing with my son on a swank golf course. In just an hour of “pond hopping” by car, and casting flies from the bank, I caught a redfish, largemouth bass, snook and crappie from several brackish-water ponds — something I’ve never done before or since.
Getting permission to fish golf course waters can be challenging, particularly on private country clubs — which frequently offer the best action. But it’s worth the effort gaining access. Sometimes meeting and talking with a club pro is worthwhile. Explain you’ll not interfere with golfers on the course, and all fish will be released.
Many golf courses are closed on Mondays, which is a prime time to fish their waters, and permission to fish is more easily obtained then. Night fishing also is worthwhile, since golfers are not on courses. And on clear, small waters of golf courses, night fishing is often unsurpassed.
I have several friends who live in large golf course complexes, and at night they use their community golf carts to scoot around cart paths on the courses to access far-from-the-road ponds that offer great fishing. Carts easily can accommodate two fishermen, plus rods and tackle boxes — even a cooler for beverages.
A word of warning is in order, however, about after sunset golf pond fishing. In Florida, creatures of the night are out and about, and pond, lagoon and stream fishermen should be aware of ill-tempered raccoons, or foxes and more dangerous critters like alligators and the occasional cottonmouth water moccasin or rattlesnake. Moccasins can be especially troublesome, and they are notoriously aggressive.
Even fire ant mounds can cause plenty of trouble for fishermen wearing short pants, sandals or similar non-protective clothing.
In warm weather, pond-side walking anglers at night are wise to have a headlamp light to make for sure footing around the water’s edge.
In many golf course communities residents and their guests are allowed to fish, so it pays to make friends with golfers. Golf resorts are popular vacation spots throughout Florida, and guests often have permission to fish water hazards so long as they don’t interfere with golfers. If you’re visiting a golf resort, don’t overlook fishing as a choice pastime.
In large golf Meccas several courses frequently are available, and many have large, connected ponds or lagoons and creeks that snake around the area. Many such waters appear small, but in reality may cover hundreds of acres. Many places are surrounded by overgrown vegetation that’s ideal fish habitat.
A great many of these waters offer excellent fishing from lightweight johnboats, canoes, kayaks, and in some places even float tubes. This allows anglers to get far away from golfers and other people and to waters rarely fished. Electric fishing motors often are allowed on watercraft in golf course communities, although gas motors normally are not.
I’ve fished some golf resorts where angling was encouraged on water hazards, to the point that improved boat ramps were available, and large bass boats could be launched and used. No big outboards could be cranked, however, only electric motors were approved for use. I
It was high on the coolness factor to be sitting in a fully rigged bass boat, far out in a golf course complex with duffers hitting balls nearby, and we were catching bass or other fish. I know of at least one golf resort that offers guided fishing trips on its courses, with the guide works out of a Ranger bass boat.
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