There are two distinct times in my life when I remember fishing:
1. Summer Saturday afternoons with my great grandmother–more memorable to me for the fact that we ate Spaghetti-O’s and Vienna Sausages (from the tiny pull-top cans) using twig-forks we broke off of nearby trees, and
2. The 4 months in college that I spent living in the Amazon jungle where the small fish in the streams were so starved that I could drop an empty hook in the water and invariably come up with something just big enough to stave off hunger until the next morning
We had never fished either of the two ponds at The Beekman Farm, though we have often marveled at the thousands of tiny goldfish that seem to appear out of nowhere in the spring and wondered what else lie in the muddy, murky depths. Now, thanks to a recent visitor to the Farm, we know that several large wide-mouth bass do.
We asked masterful fisherman, Dan Hall, to share some surefire tips for making your next fishing expedition memorable for something more than just “the one that got away”. (You should never let an expert leave your site until you’ve convinced them to share some of their secrets!)
- Think of fishing a pond as unraveling a puzzle. You must figure out the proper lure for the conditions of the day and the type of pond your fishing. Is it shallow, clear, or dirty? Does it have weeds, stumps or other places where the fish can hide?
- Approach the pond quietly and carefully. Small bodies of water will transfer disturbances like bushes or weeds shaking in the water and shadows from you standing on the edge. Try to blend into the surrounding environment. Stand in the shade or back off so your shadow is not on the water.
- Water clarity will help determine how deep the fish will be. The dirtier the water the more shallow the fish will relate. Remember if you can see the fish, they can see you and the harder it will be to get them to bite
- On windy or overcast days the fish cannot see you on the shore as well as sunny calm days. Use this to your advantage in your lure selection. Calm days dictate surface lures because the fish can see lure breaking the surface layer of the water better than windy days. On windy days the ripple on the waters surface will help hide your image making the fish less spooked. This also tells you to use a sub surface lure such as a spinner bait pictured below, because the fish will be more aggressive and willing to chase a faster moving lure.
- A medium action spinning rod and reel using 6 to 10 lb. test line should be a perfect combination for most pond fishing.
- A small selection of lures is all that will be needed to cover the water from top to bottom. We will start with the surface. If the pond has a large portion of weeds on the surface such as lily pads or reeds, a weedless rat or frog such as the one pictured will be your first choice. Simply cast the rat into the pond and wait for the ripples from the lure landing on the water to dissipate. Twitch the bait with short movements of your rod retrieving it slowly in a pull-wait, pull-wait motion. Be ready, the fish will usually hit the lure while it is at rest.
- Another surface presentation is a fluke or slugo, which imitates a dying baitfish. This is a great lure if the pond weeds are below the surface. Cast the lure in and retrieve with short jerks to let the lure go side-to-side looking like a dying fish. When the fish strikes this lure, WAIT! Do not set the hook until you feel the weight of the fish or see your line moving sideways. This is an excellent lure but requires patience on the hook set to keep your catch ratio high.
- A shallow running stick bait such as the one pictured can be excellent if there aren’t many weeds because the two treble hooks have a tendency to catch on anything near the hooks. Cast this lure and retrieve, reeling slowly, pausing every couple of feet or cast and retrieve with a rapid pull-wait motion. Let the fish tell you which method is best.
- A spinner-bait or safety pin lure (pictured) will help you search the surface to mid-depth areas of a pond. Simply cast the lure out and retrieve fast enough to feel the blades thumping in the water. Vary your retrieve until the fish bite. Example: retrieve steady with small pauses. Yo yo the lure by letting it sink toward the bottom, then retrieve and sink again.
- A weedless rubber worm such as the one pictured (A Charlie Brewer Slider Head with worm) is an excellent lure to use along the bottom of the pond. Cast this lure in and let it sink to the bottom. You can tell when the lure reaches the bottom because your line will go slack. Move the worm by raising your rod tip, pausing, and again watching the line go slack. Continue this motion slowly letting the lure rest on the bottom each time. When the fish eats the worm you will feel a slight tick or the slack line will jump or start moving sideways. Set the hook hard because the hook point must exit the worm body to penetrate the fishes mouth.
- The sink worm or Senko rigged “wacky style” is a great method for catching big fish and is easy for a novice to use. Wacky style simply means hooking the worm in the middle with a weed less hook as pictured. Cast the worm and wait as mentioned above until it sinks to the bottom. Then move the worm slowly with a hopping motion. When the fish bites and you feel a peck, WAIT! The line will start to move to the side or out away from you. When the line gets tight, set the hook and hang on.
- Remember to use good conservation practices when fishing. Keep only what you can eat if you must keep fish. Use catch and release when ever possible so other people can enjoy the sport. Clean up your mess and help keep the area around the pond clean whenever you are there. Ask permission and always thank the owner of the pond for letting you fish. The twelve tips mentioned above should help you become a better angler and up your odds of catching and enjoying pond fishing.
Pass this along to other fishermen in your life. Dan would be proud.