Friday, August 16, 2013

The Pond and Beyond

Though most of my time in the outdoors is spent looking for reptiles & amphibians to photograph, I also enjoy wetting the line. It was my dad who first took me fishing as a young kid. I remember spending long days in our boat catching a limit of panfish and then taking them home to filet up for dinner. But it was a pond down my street which really hooked me and some buddies I've had since childhood on fishing. Most of our summer days were spent outside as kids and at some point, we began to notice older kids riding their bikes with fishing rods toward the pond down the street. The first day we went fishing is one of my most vivid childhood memories. I was probably 10 years old or so and my good friend Ryan was probably 7 or 8. The water was very murky and there was a stiff breeze causing a choppy pond surface. I was using a small spincast outfit with a 2-3" pre-rigged plastic worm on four pound test line. After a few casts, I felt a stiff pull on the end of my line so I jerked my rod to set the hook. I still remember the sensation of the bass shaking its head and then flying out of the water with an acrobatic jump. I landed the fish which measured just over fourteen inches. This was the moment when we all realized that the pond had largemouth bass in it, and we were all hooked. Ryan, Brian, Dylan and myself began to make more regular trips to the pond. Sometimes, other kids from out block would come in the evenings, sometimes in numbers of ten kids or more at a given time. The more we fished, the more we learned. And the more we learned, the bigger the fish got. I used to buy disposable cameras to document the fish we caught at the pond and have managed to scan a few photos from our younger years fishing at the pond.

Myself, Ryan, and Brian with my 18" Largemouth

Ryan (age 7 or so here) fishes the Pond

Ryan and I with a double just after dark on Rebel Pop-Rs

Ryan with a nice Largemouth from the Pond

Aaron, Ryan, Myself, and Brian with a toad caught just after dark

Though we've been separated for long droughts at a time, all of us have managed to keep in contact with one another and stay close friends. And for the first time in many years, all of us boys are once again in our home town for the time being. What else would we do in our spare time this summer but fish? Unfortunately the pond we grew up loving had a major die off event a year or two ago, likely due to eutrophication. Small fish seem to be present in the pond, but I'll come back to that at the end of this post. Because of the loss of fish at the pond, we've spent most of our summer pond hopping around the area. One of the first nights that we went fishing this summer brought Ryan and I to this beautiful spot. The water here is deep, clear, and loaded with aquatic vegetation, making it an ideal haunt for bass and northern pike. We only managed to catch a few decent pike on this evening, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Northern Pike caught on a Rapala Shad Rap

One pond has been particularly productive. Its deep, clear, and has lots of aquatic vegetation and baitfish. Early on in the summer, the topwater bite around sunset was particularly spectacular. We had many nights of landing twenty or more bass each at this pond, including some hawgs. Arbogast Jitterbugs, Heddon Zara Spooks, and various buzzbaits were particularly effective. We've also had lots of success on a single bladed, black Strike King Night Spinnerbait. These spinnerbaits are large (9/16 oz) and make a lot of vibration, so a long, stout rod is a must. We've had the most success by slow rolling these large spinnerbaits in deep water just after dark. 

Small Largemouth with a face full of Jitterbug

Monster Largemouth caught on an Arbogast Jitterbug

Healthy bass caught on a black Strike King Night Spinnerbait

Big Largemouth caught on a black Strike King Night Spinnerbait

Another interesting side note regarding fishing this summer has been a lure company that I've long heard bass fishermen rave about, but have never tried myself. The manufacturer in question is Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits and their best selling soft plastic, the senko. The senko is essentially a straight plastic worm that lacks a twisty tail or have much action at all. However, the bait does fall horizontally in the water with a slight wiggle that seems to get the attention of nearby bass. You can fish it weighted or unweighted and rig it however you want. I prefer to rig it wacky with a weedless hook and fish it really slow. The proof is in the pudding when it comes to this lure, and I've caught some of my biggest bass this summer on the Yamamoto senko.

Small Largemouth with a mouth full of Senko

4 pound Largemouth caught on my first cast on this evening

Big Largemouth caught in deep water on a Senko

And finally to close, what's happened with the pond down the street? After the total collapse of the fish population there a few years ago, some fish have hung on and begun to make a comeback. The pond is loaded with lily pads and the water is murky, but there's still some decent fish there. We've caught some decent fish in the 14-15" range throughout the summer, but nothing to write home about. That was until one particular evening when Ryan caught this absolute pig on a Rebel Pop-R.

Ryan's 3+ pound largemouth from The Pond

For us, its exciting to see that this place we spent so much of our summer months as kids fishing is making a comeback. I hope to take my own kids to this place some day so that they can enjoy the great fishing just down the street that I did. That's all for now. Until next time, remember, a bad day fishing beats a good day working!

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