Family Fun - Fishin' Farm Ponds
Biggest catch of the day for my son
Fishing small bodies of water
Fishin’ Farm Ponds
Most of us who live here in the heartland had someone who first got us interested in fishing. It may have been our father, grandfather, uncle, brother, mother, family friend. Anyone who cared enough to start us out probably took us to a small body of water our first time fishing, in order that we could be successful on the initial trip. That body of water most likely was somebody’s farm pond. We grew up there, catching perch, then graduating onto bigger fish like catfish or bass; but the fact remains we began on that pond, and that was our entry into the world of fishing.
For most of us, after a time we grew bored with these small bodies of water with their seemingly limited opportunities, and we moved on to bigger and better things. We would spend vast amounts of cash on rods, reels, lures, tackle boxes, boats, and tell ourselves that the long days spent racing around on the lakes and rivers in pursuit of game fish was worth all the hassle and costs. But sometimes, deep inside, we were disappointed in our catches on those waters. Oh, sure, we might catch a nice stringer of bass; or fill our cooler with crappie or white bass, or spend a long night trying for some channel, blue, or flathead catfish; but the costs, man! We might spend $100.00 on gas for our truck to pull the boat, and the boat to get to where we think the fish might hit. In today’s higher priced world, these trips are growing harder and harder to justify. The fun is there, but it is tempered by the cost of that fun, which makes it not quite as much fun in the end.
Enter those farm ponds. Scattered all across the state, and ranging from less than an acre to several hundred acres, they remain, waiting for us to return, and some are just as full of fish as our lakes are and probably a lot easier to predict and catch. All of the popular games fish can be caught there, with a few exceptions. Bass, crappie, channel catfish, perch and sunfish by the score all wait, finning quietly in the depths of some pond within easy striking distance from wherever you live. These fish generally are nowhere near as educated as those in the lakes, and it won’t cost you an arm and a leg to get there. And, if you are respectful of the fishery, they can continue to provide years of quality fishing for you and your family.
Most of you may think these small bodies of water contain small fish, and for the most part, you would be correct. There are a lot of small fish to be caught there, and to be released for future trips. But if you think that’s all they have, you are missing the boat! The pond doesn’t have to be big; it doesn’t have to be private; and it doesn’t have to be far away. Let’s take a prime example in my neck of the woods. How many of you have heard of Robert E. Talbot Conservation Area? Not many, I’ll bet. I’ve fished this public area many times over the past fifteen years or so, and done quite well, thank you. My son and I have one particular pond, roughly an acre in size, that we call Lake Bagabigun. For several years, it was nothing to walk the half mile in to this secluded gem, and in one time around, taking perhaps two hours, catch and release some twenty to thirty bass in the 10 to 14 inch range. Not earth shakers, perhaps, but enough for a father and son to enjoy some quality time together, and isn’t that what life is all about anyway? But before you think this was an every season occurrence, know this: this pond went through a period of plenty, followed by some lean years, before rising up the good level again. Lesson number one: when you find a good pond, do not catch all of the fish out of it. Only take what you need for a decent meal perhaps once a year. Return everything else unharmed. Protect our fishing future.
Lest you think small waters equal small fish, let me tell you about another Talbot area pond. It is near Lake Bagabigun; matter of fact we had to walk by it to reach the other pond. One day, out by myself, I decided to try this other pond. It is close to the road, and I had walked by it countless times without a look. But on this day, I decided “What the heck” and eased into it. Lesson number two: check out all bodies of water, no matter how small or seemingly empty. This pond is so small, that if you stood in the middle of it, you could easily cast to the shoreline and cover the entire pond from there. I started at the West end, and waded around on the North side. I had caught several small bass on a black spinnerbait with a willow-leaf blade, enough to turn a poor day into a decent day. As I neared the East side where the dam was, I switched to a 6 inch red with black core straight tailed worm and made a cast to the outside branches of the willow tree which grew on the dam. First cast: one largemouth weighing four and a half pounds. Next cast: another largemouth weighing two and a half pounds. Two more casts brought strikes, but no hookups. I pulled out of the water and made my way to the middle of the dam to try from the other side of the tree. I made one cast, skipping my worm under the overhanging limbs and into the heart of the tree. Tap tap tap. I gently reeled in the excess line, and hauled back hard. The rod barely moved, and remained deeply bowed and aimed straight towards the fish. It turned towards the shore, then back towards the deeper water, before angling towards the surface. Then came an explosion of water droplets as the largest bass I had ever had on flung itself completely free of the water, shaking its head angrily as it tried to rid itself of the hook embedded deeply in its jaw. It crashed back into the water, and made for the deeper recesses of the pond. My rod and reel were up to the challenge, however, and in a short time, I latched onto the eight pounder’s jaw and hauled it back to shore. Yes, I said eight pounds. My next largest bass also came from another small pond on public ground, weighed six and a half pounds, and was caught in another one acre pond, but this one was on Bushwhacker Conservation Area. If you search hard enough, and are willing to work a bit, you can find success in the smaller waters.
I took my youngest son fishing at a local farm pond earlier this year. We were after catfish, but would be happy with anything. Using worms, I rigged his rod and let him cast out. Before I could get my rod ready, he had one. A nice catfish but still skinny from the winter, it was still his biggest fish to date. I helped him take it off the hook, and re-rigged his line. Another cast; another fish. It took almost twenty minutes before my line finally hit the water. Not that it mattered much: he kicked my fanny that day. He caught 12 fish: 6 each catfish and perch. I caught one, 1, ONE! One single skinny 8 inch long channel catfish. But, it mattered not to me. What mattered was the mile wide smile on my son's face, and the story he told his momma when we got back home about how he caught more than me, and his were all bigger than my one. That is the memory I will carry for a long, long time.
To me, one definition of success comes from catching fish, be they large or small. Simply the joy of a tug on the end of my line is sufficient to make my day. But if I wanted to define true success, it would be in the smile of a child, catching their first fish, or catching the first fish that day, or catching more than their daddy did that day. Any one of these little achievements creates the opportunity to make my day. Take a chance yourself and try one of Missouri’s best small waters. Look on the map and see what awaits you. You might just be surprised.