Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes

Jim McWilliams   Sunday, March 04, 2007 9:15 PM

Why my absolute favorite fishing spots are farm ponds.

We search big lakes high and low for big fish, fight the chop, the wind, and the crowd. We hear about the huge bass that are in them, the stories about the divers who refuse to dive by the dam because they are scared of what they saw down below. Have you caught one? Do you enjoy the crowds and the jet skis roaring by?

Now imagine yourself here?a small pond, maybe an acre, maybe five or six. Nobody there but you and maybe a buddy or two. There is a pretty good weed line extending out from shore all the way around the pond. Trees around the edges and the nearby dam block the wind. There is a pleasant smell in the air, fresh and clean, with that unmistakable scent of a pond. Birds sing in the trees, fish boiling in the water?and they are all yours.

This is not a dream?this is a Nebraska, South Dakota or Iowa farm pond. You and your buddies inflate your tubes, set up your tackle, and glide into the pond, out just beyond the weeds. A first cast brings a good hit, a second a fat, sassy bass that jumps out of the water, almost to eye level. You bring the fish in?it is healthy, good color and as fat as the ones you see on those television shows. Lifting the fish into the air, you brag to your buddies and they are hooked up too.

Lots of photos, and all fish are released. You even lay your master angler 7-pounder on your measuring tape and shoot a pic for that state certificate before popping him back into the pond. Great fishing, great fun, you just can?t do any better than this?and there is no fee, no hassle.

At the close of the day, you pull out a trash bag and pick up anything that you may have left as well as every other bit of trash that you see in the area. Leave it cleaner than it was before you arrived. Stop by the farmhouse on the way out and extend a warm handshake to the one who allowed you access, share the digital pics if you have them, and let him know that you cleaned up the area.

Response? ?You boys are welcome back anytime!? Ask what kind of soda pop he likes or his favorite kind of beer and bring it with you on the next trip. This is not a dream; this is real. Southeastern Nebraska and Southwest Iowa have the largest concentration of farm ponds in North America. Most of these are teaming with state-stocked fish. Largemouth bass, bluegill, crappie, catfish, carp, and sunfish are the most plentiful types of catchable fish. The fish and game departments add fish to keep the lake in balance as well as the water quality. Some of the lakes were stocked many years ago.

This bass was caught in a very old farm pond near Ashland, NE. The pond is only about an acre, if that. Twenty inches and about 5 pounds is what she weighs. The lure was a Madtom of course, root beer pepper the color. This is a great pond, steep banks, almost non-fishable from the shoreline. You have to drop your tube in on the dam side, as there is no other access. Deep, nearly 20 feet at the center, with lots of structure, downed trees, weeds and clear water. I caught a fish on my first cast, a bass at 11 inches. More of the same, again and again. I had heard that this pond might hold some large fish, so I kept up my pursuit and found the perfect spot.

On the side of the pond was a pocket that cut back into the steep bank. It was about eight feet back from the rest of the pond, six feet wide, and more than five feet deep. There was a tree trunk lying across the entrance about a foot below the surface. Slowly, I positioned my float tube about 20 feet out from the entrance of the tiny bay. I cast the Madtom across the top of the trunk and hit the bank at the rear. It tumbled into the water and I started bringing it toward myself?as it got to within a foot of the submerged trunk the water exploded, up came this beautiful bass with my lure embedded in the side of its gaping jaw. It was a thrill as it landed on my side of the trunk with the hook firmly set. After a bass and Jim tug of war, I won?the proof is in the picture, as is the smile on my face.

This was a fat and healthy beauty that any one of you would be proud of?from a one-acre pond! Of course not every pond is like this.

The picture below is a pond with no trees that I fished on May 24th. About 2 acres, the water was clear spring water and there was no visible cover this early in the year. But?the fish were swirling in the shallows as I approached on foot. They could see me walking in and headed for deeper water. Take a look?no structure, except for one visible bush in six inches of water?the rancher that owned it told me that it plugs up from weeds by mid-summer, so the cover is seasonal.

I tried several types of artificial baits, including spinner baits, which are usually effective when the bass are shallow, but no luck. I arrived just after twelve noon, so they were not in the mood, and too spooky to stay in the shallows?so?sounds like a commercial, but no fooling. Root beer Madtom again.

Sorry, but they kill bass, and do it so effectively it is scary. Here are a couple of the fish. It is hard to shoot good pictures of live fish with one hand. The bass measured just over fifteen inches and was fat and sassy. (check out the lure!) The tail swung away as I took the shot. The crappie is a beauty for a pond of this size. Note how healthy both fish look. Five largemouth bass and four crappie later I was on my way home.

Note that the smallest bucketmouth was 13 inches. All it takes is a nice friendly approach to farmers or ranchers that sometimes like to fish as much as we do. Never be afraid of the ?No, get off of my property and don?t ever come back. ? It just doesn't?t happen. Yes, you sometimes get a ?no? but it is always friendly. Remember, you are never the first one to ask?believe me. I have even been told ?The lake is overpopulated with bass, most of them small?if you don?t keep the ones you catch, please don?t release them?just toss them up on the bank so the remaining fish will get bigger.? (There is a fishing god?right?)

One last comment from your float tube guy: All of us love to see others get interested in fishing. I was float tubing in Lake Yankton again recently, and as I sat in my tube, there was a family nearby on the bank. The young lady that was with her parents kept pointing out how well she was casting and having a great time. Then I heard her say, ?Dad, I want a fishing pole for my birthday.?

Well, I had fished my fill, caught several bass on my favorite lure?so I finned my way to shore and started letting the air out of my float tube. Note that my car was parked right behind where this young lady and her parents were fishing?I could still hear her excited comments, so I called down the bank and asked when her birthday was. She ran up to my car and said ?this Wednesday!? With her parents permission, I reached into my car and pulled out a brand new Berkley Lightning, two-piece graphite rod. ?Happy Birthday!? I said and she smiled from ear to ear. ?Now all your Dad needs to buy is the reel.? The great smile was worth 1000 fishing rods.

Good luck fishing and keep those hooks sharp!

Jim McWilliams

The Float Tube Guy

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7 Comments

re: Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes
3/10/2007 5:26:52 PM  Derek says,

Jim's email address is not working, so I am forwarding his email to my address until I hear back from him.

re: Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes
4/18/2007 9:44:23 AM  Greg says,

Good article. I live in Virginia and finding places to fish when you don't own a boat is getting harder and harder to do. I remember when I was a kid, you could fish farm ponds all over the County. I guess fear of litigation if something should happen has made more pond owners leary of letting people fish on their land, but I'm willing to put my foot in the road and go ask some. To that end, I went to TopoZone.com and printed out a list of all ponds, lakes and reservoirs in Virginia. Here is the list for Nebraska: http://www.topozone.com/states/Nebraska.asp?feature=Reservoir

re: Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes
4/18/2007 11:24:06 PM  Derek says,

Wow this site is a great find! I didn't know this site existed. Thanks for the tip!

re: Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes
4/20/2007 8:42:07 AM  Greg says,

You are very welcome Derek. I wanted to contribute since I've found this site to be an invaluable source of information. Well done, easy to navigate and very helpful as well. Greg

re: Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes
10/28/2008 2:17:16 PM  Husker from Southeast Nebr. says,

How True......I'll never forget the pond we found when i was in my teens growing up in a small town in the Southeat corner of Nebraska. My dad and uncles use to stock ponds with Bass & Crappie. We were big hunters and my dad used to raise hunting dogs on an old farm out west of town. One day when I was about 15-16 years of age a friend of mine and I went for a hile up in the timber behind the farm and came across a cpuple farm ponds that looked like the only thing that had been around was some cows or deer. There were plenty of cat tails and old trees in the top pond and it wasn't very big in diameter. When we walked up on the edge and i saw the size of the bass that were boiling the water and swimming around I could not wait to get back to town and grab my pole and tell my dad. When we got back and walked up for the first cast it was the most amazing thing of our lives. We caught some of the biggest Large Mouth Bass out of there than I have ever caught since. It has been many of years since I have been back that way, but I always think of going back to see if the pond is still there and will have memories of that pond and that day for as long as I live. Thank you for posting your story and bringing back the memories. Southeast Nebraska......

re: Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes
10/28/2008 2:21:33 PM  Husker from Southeast Nebr. says,

How True......I'll never forget the pond we found when I was in my teens growing up in a small town in the Southeast corner of Nebraska. My dad and uncles use to stock ponds with Bass & Crappie. We were big hunters and my dad used to raise hunting dogs on an old farm out west of town. One day when I was about 15-16 years of age a friend of mine and I went for a hike up in the timber behind the farm and came across a couple farm ponds that looked like the only thing that had been around was some cows or deer. There were plenty of cat tails and old trees in the top pond and it wasn't very big in diameter. When we walked up on the edge and I saw the size of the bass that were boiling the water and swimming around I could not wait to get back to town and grab my pole and tell my dad. When we got back and walked up for the first cast, it was the most amazing thing of our lives. We caught some of the biggest Large Mouth Bass out of there than I have ever caught since. It has been many of years since I have been back that way, but I always think of going back to see if the pond is still there and will have memories of that pond and that day for as long as I live. Thank you for posting your story and bringing back the memories. Southeast Nebraska......

re: Why Fishing Farm Ponds Are Better Than Big Lakes
3/8/2012 10:14:28 AM  ethan says,

I have cout two catfish in my pond

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