Shad colored baits are all the rage, especially in crank baits. Shad colors are just everywhere; people use shad colors to imitate the baitfish. "Match the hatch", as fly fishermen say. And shad are present in many reservoirs and lakes. But sometimes, using shad colors is no a good idea.
Many reservoirs, such as Toledo Bend, have large shoals of shad. However, smaller lakes and ponds, and even some larger bodies of water, have no shad present. I think that most town lakes in your ordinary public parks have little shad. The forage fish? Bluegill. Throwing a shad style bait will look very unnatural; the shiny, silverly coloration of the shad, and their long, thin bodies, stands out in stark contrast with the dull and dark colors of bluegill, and their flat, disc-shaped bodies.
Above: Here's a pond where shad style baits aren't the most productive. Use green pumpkin and other like-colors to imitate bluegill.
Using bluegill style baits, or trying to imitate a crawfish, will often get you much better results than using a shad style bait. So where do you not want to use shad style baits?
1. Clear water ponds and lakes - shad primarily eat plankton. Clear water is a sign of low plankton concentrations, which means little or no shad. However, bluegill are not primarily plankton eaters, and will feast on other things, such as worms or small bait fish. Also, crawfish may be present, especially in rock piles.
2. Small ponds - Shad don't do well in small ponds, and high bass predation is part of the reason. Also, small ponds are shallower, and are not suited to be their habitat. Bluegill have the upper hand in small ponds.
3. Up north - Shad don't do well when the water temperature starts to dip.
4. Really, really weedy and muddy water - that's bluegill habitat. Enough said.
I hoped that helped. Remember, shad aren't everywhere, and you need to identify the primary forage in the water you are fishing in. Just remember that most of time in smaller bodies of water, the primary baitfish will be bluegill. Up north, the larger bodies of water will mostly have perch, and down south, in the larger bodies of water, is where the shad is.
Everyone loves pond fishing. One of their many appeals is their accessibility. They are in or near almost every neighborhood. If you do a bit of hiking or go on Google Earth, you will find a pond.
And pond fish are often unwary, too. They rarely will see fishing pressure, unlike most town lakes, which causes them to bite everything. Heck, I even caught a pond bass on a pine with a hook (topwater, of course).
But does it have fish?
I've fished in ponds all my life, and there's three questions that I ask myself to determine if a pond holds fish... or not.
Above: C'mon, folks. Not going to have fish.......
Size: That big puddle over there isn't going to have fish. The larger the pond, the more baitfishes and their food that it can support. Bass need food to grow, and therefore a bass would need a waterway large enough that it can support his food. 3/4th of an acre is a good minimum.
Plus, bass need deeper water to retreat in during temperature swings. Small bodies of water are unlikely to hold deep spots. Also, small bodies of water overheat or freeze out quickly, much quicker than larger bodies of water. Temperature can kill bass in a small pond.
Conditions: After you got size covered, look at the pond's other conditions. Folks, if it dries up to a puddle during the summer, it's not going to hold fish. If it is gin clear and you can't see any fish, it's not going to hold fish. If it is extremely shallow, no fish. A tell-tale sign of ponds with no bass/fish that I use is the vegetation. If the weeds are extremely dense, everywhere, that could indicate no fish (fish, such as carp, will eat many weeds), or extremely poor pond management, which will eventually kill the pond's fish, but that's another story for another day. A horde of frogs, everywhere, is also a sign of a frog/bug only pond with no fish. Fish prey on frogs and tadpoles, bass, bluegill, etc. The frogs would therefore be not as so dense in a pond with fish.
There you go. Of course, the real determining factor is going there is catching fish yourself.
When you think fishing in southern waters, you don't think smallmouth bass. When you think of smallmouth bass, you think clear water, deep water, rocks, and fast moving water, water with a minimum growth of plants, waters such as deep Northern lakes. The warmer waters are for largemouth - and largemouth only, right?
Above: Smallmouth water?
However, it seems that smallmouth, which are found only in the deeper, colder, and rockier waters of reservoirs are only there because they were chased out of the prime shallow water habitat by largemouth, which will outcompete them. Smallmouth don't prefer the deeper, colder, and rockier waters to more shallower habitat, but were forced there. In fact, some smallmouth hatcheries have water surface temperatures reach 95 F or higher in the summer. Also, the best growth temperature for sallies is 80-85 F. That's right, 80-85 F.
So why are smallies not as widespread as largies? Smallmouth bass, for one, don't do well at all around sunfish or other spiny finned fishes, which dominate most waterways. Sunfish are hard for them to eat, and aggressive grow and outcompete them for food and space. Largemouth bass have the upper hand in static water. Thus, the smallmouth is limited.
Once you catch a bronze back, you are hooked. A 2lb smallmouth feels like a 4lb largemouth. Smallmouth live in waters too warm for trout. These proud fish live in creeks across the U.S, as well as deep reservoirs and lakes.
Wait, deep reservoirs and lakes? Why not shallow? There is a reason that you don't see smallmouth in those shallow 1 acre ponds, teeming with bluegill and largemouth bass. Smallmouth prefer colder water than largemouth (though not as cold as trout). Although they are feisty and aggressive fish, they don't seem to compete well with warm-water game fishes, such as orders of bluegill and largemouth bass. However, in cold water, they seem to dominate.
Above: Small creek smallmouth live in streams like this one. Picture from wikipedia.org
In small creeks, the role of the bluegill as a main forage fish for bass is taken over by creek chub or various other minnows. Notice the creek minnow taken in the picture below, part of an YFS display tank, is slender and soft finned, while bluegill are disc shaped and have sharp fins. In the creek that the minnow was caught from, the minnow was the main forage fish for the smallmouth bass.
Above: Slender minnows are a typical forage of smallmouth bass.
Smallmouth bass seem to not like to eat bluegill at all. They seem to grudgingly eat them, to my observation, while the largemouth bass, despite preferring slender and so finned fish, will eat bluegill. I have creek fished next to a friend with a Storm Live Bluegill, a really realistic bluegill swimbait. I was using a soft plastic jerkbait, which was long, white and slender, resembling an injured creek minnow. Guess who was seriously outfished? I think a reason that smallmouth don't do well in ponds is that they really don't like eating bluegill, the main forage fish in ponds.
This is a continuance of my previous post.
There is one fish, however, that seems to be in every neighborhood pond. It is the goldfish.
Lots of goldfish get released by their owners each year. Entire swaths of Florida's canals are filled by fish such as Mayan Cichlids and Tilapia, releasees from aquariums or escapees from fish farms. Exotic fish, such as the notorious snakehead, often excel in adapting to new habitats.
Goldfish (goldfish, btw, are very similar to carp, but were domesticated in the past) and carp are very common in tiny ponds. They take much more abuse than bass (extremely low oxygen, very warm water, raw sewage, etc), and eat everything, from common pond algae to crawfish. They seem to hop from pond to pond better than bass, too.
If you do find a carp/goldfish filled pond, you can still fish it. Carp/Goldfish can get very big, and they put up a good fight. They also are very smart, and easily spooked. In Asian, they are the freshwater gamefish of choice. Small ones act like panfish, bring everything, while the big ones get huge, and are very hard to catch. Truly, if you find a carp pond, you're in luck. Since they get big, they make good "personal best fish" photos.
This is a question that I sometimes get. Those tiny ponds and those forest ponds..... are they stocked?
Sometimes it pays to be realistic.
While bass do have an amazing ability to somehow wind up in many waters, sometimes, too small is too small. Let's be realistic.... a 20' by 20' patch of water only 6' deep will not have bass. Remember, bass are carnivorous. There's only so many minnows in that puddle until they run out. Granted, some .4 acre ponds I seen have held bass, but don't expect anything below that to hold bass.
Above: Sometimes, they do surprise you.
Another problem is that these ponds don't have a source of fish. While many of the ponds are stocked in the past by the government, got fish from floods, or have had past owners stocking them, many ponds, especially if they are covered in massive, undisturbed blankets of algae and are in the middle of vast woods, have no fish, and are most breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Many ponds are actually vernal pools, large puddles formed by spring rainwater and drying up by the fall. They are breeding grounds for some endangered salamander species and frogs, but there are no fish.
Now, there are signs that point to ponds having fish, in my experience. If there are minnows, there will be larger, fishable fish. If there is a creek nearby, there could be fish in that pond from floods. If the pond is an acre or larger, there is a better chance of it stocked. If it is in a farm, it could've been stocked by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service in the past
To be continued,
A bass pond costs a lot of money. Make no mistake about it. Bass need space - any pond 2 acres or less is seriously frowned upon. The rate to excavate ponds of less than 20 acres is $3,000 to $5,000 per acre. That's a lot of money. Bass also need a lot of protein, and the baitfish needed to sustain a population of bass isn't cheap, at $500 worth of fish for every acre. That really isn't cheap. Feed trained bass need pellets with high protein, which is expensive.
As mentioned in the previous article, catfish are very hardy - and cheap. It is agreeable to put channel catfishes in ponds .1 - 1 acre, small enough that you could dig with shovels and friends, rather than hiring contractors. They also can eat a diet of cheap grain based pellets. They also root around the pond to supplement their diet. Channel catfish - only ponds are doable, and if you buy fingerlings, you could raise them for meat.
6"-8" Channel Catfish are also cheap - $65 for 100. 4"-6" is like $2.75 each. Channel Catfish are nice and cheap, and are easy to catch. You could also raise lunkers in your pond, since channel cats can exceed 30 pounds. They make good eating, too.
Next you are stocking a tiny pond, perhaps think about catfish!
Sometimes, Google Maps doesn't work when you are trying to find a small body of water to fish. Often, the ponds are covered by trees, and can't be seen. Or, the Maps are outdated and ponds have since dried up. Other times, there are so many weeds in the pond that they look like lawns. I know ponds are very common, but how to I find them?
The answer is to hike. Small 1 acre ponds are quite common, and are often in the most unexpected of the places. I often find them next to highways, next to abandoned factories, and behind auto dealerships. Look for large parking lots and other places with a lot of concrete. If there's concrete, there needs to be a drainage. Often, the retention pond is right next to the auto dealer ship. Very large lawns, such a golf courses, also have retention ponds to drain the rainwater. Any pond with 1 acre could have fish.
Above: This pond was barely visible on maps. It's less than .5 acres. But it has some nice carp.
It's almost March, and the world is showing signs of springs. Already, some daffodil flowers are pushing their way out of their earth, giving promise to bright yellow and white flowers. Ants are out foraging, small denizens of a big world.
For me, the bass fishing season starts in the spring. The water starts to warm, and once again, the bass regain their monstrous appetite. Granted, bass fishing in the winter is certainly possible, but standing outside in freezing winds and not catching a single fish is not my favorite way of passing time. I restock my tackle online, or trade with friends. I will practice casting in the the basement, and sharpen dull hooks. I give my small tackle box a good wash. And I go on Google Maps.
In HoCo, we have Lakes Kittamaqundi, Wilde, Elkhorn, and Centennial. In the South and Midwest, they barely qualify as ponds. If you're are willing to make the drive, you can go to the vast Triadelphia Reservoir (by HoCo standards, at least). If you watch the videos of local YouTube fishing celebrity 1Rod1Reel Fishing, you would know about Font Hill Wetland Park. And yes, you can fish in the Little Patuxent, Middle Patuxent, and some other rivers.
But I Iive in Clarksville. And Clarksville isn't close to any lakes in HoCo. I can fish in a small tributary of the Middle Patuxent (saw it while driving), but after my 90th fallfish, the excitement starts to cool off. There are not big fish there. Other than some small smallmouths, there are no bass. I never caught a bass there on conventional bass fishing gear, only ultralight gear.
Enter Google Maps. Using Google Maps (satellite mode) is much easier than scouting out the area yourself. Using Google Maps, I have already found two small ponds that I can easily hike to. Haven't fished them yet, but I plan to. Bass can live in very small ponds, and they seem to be in every pond. Sometimes the pond is stocked, or it is a storm water pond connected to another waterway, or there are natural causes (floods, heavy rain, birds), or the fish are just... there. I heard about plenty of ponds where the fish just.... got there (Owner digs a small pond for rainwater, miles away from any waterway, and didn't stock it. After a few months, there are bass, and a sizable colony of bluegill.)
Odd? Yes, but it's true. There are ponds everywhere that no one bothered to mark. There are those woodland ponds (some may be temporary pools, though), there are humble stormwater ponds (lots of them!), there are farm ponds (HoCo used to be farmland, and even after the farmers left, no one bothered to fill in the ponds), and there are stocked ponds. They can be right under your nose. A stone's throw away from my house is a small storm water pond. There are LOTS of them, and they could be close. Very Close.
HoCo is still a suburb, and there are always those little patches of forest that people take walks in. In those little patches, there are sometimes woodland ponds, and a lot of creeks. Some creeks have small but fishable creek chub and bluegills. In many neigh hoods, there are stormwater ponds. They can be everywhere. Some ponds are on private land, and you need to ask the property owner for permission to fish them.
All you need to do is to go to the satellite mode of Google Maps. Look around your area. Look for small patches of blue. Those patches are potential targets. Don't be hesitant to try them out. In the summer though, mosquitoes are rife around these ponds, and you need a good repellant, and should wear long pants and sleeves. It might be hot though, so fish the afternoons and mornings.
I have already found two ponds that I can walk to, and many more near me. Look around your area, and you will be sure to find ponds.
Hi. I am Ian, an extremely avid bass fisherman living in Howard County, MD. I like to bank fish and fish at local ponds and small creeks. I will explore budget friendly options for people to use in this blog. I hope I can teach you something.