It's been a strange year for farm pond fishing.
Traditionally, the fish follow a routine scenario of moving here and there as waters warm, then moving again as the thermocline turns over before heading shallow again for spawning. But this year has been an almost never ending round of warm weather, bitter cold, monsoon rains, more cold, then warm again. The fish in our area's little lakes are probably saying "Where am I and where do I go from here?" Still, until the weather stabilizes, ponds are the best game in town and your best chance for catching some fish.
Largemouth bass always are going to be fairly easy. If you're a lazy person who just wants to loaf along a pond bank, watch blackbirds swaying on cattails and soak in warming sunlight, a very good way to go is with 2- to 3-inch minnows. In some bait shops you can purchase fair sized golden shiners or just hit a local little creek and seine some chubs. Then lip hook the lively bait on a No. 4 hook, flip out two rigs about 3 to 4 feet below a float and splitshot and just let them swim.
It's best to cast gently and concentrate your casting on the shallower half of the pond. But with this rig, the float should sink with fair regularity, given a good pond with serious bass, and you'll have a fun day. Do return the bass and if you simply must keep a couple for dinner, keep it at that a couple.
Those who prefer casting for bass should have good luck on four-inch worms, so long as the bottom is fairly clean and your worm doesn't come back slimed up with green algae. Fish the worm slow and fan cast in all directions, again starting at the shallow end and working deeper. You should feel a gentle tap or see line movement with fair frequency.
As waters warm a little I like to turn to a pearl gray Rooster spinner in quarter ounce. I've caught hundreds of bass on this offering, and you should have one in your tackle box always. Little Beetlespins can pay off too, as will sinking Rapalas. Remember, the key word is "small" for these early fish. They're not too hungry yet.
Bluegills can be easier or tougher. I hit a farm pond just a few days ago with plans to catch some bluegills, and I did, but I had to work for them. I expected to find fish in 3 to 4 feet of water just like the last time I went, but it had been a bright, sunny day with temperatures in the low 70s, and the little pansters had moved into a really shallow area to bask in those extra degrees of warmth. Some were cruising in water just a foot deep, and I expected easy pickings as I added a waxworm to a gaudy little yellow and chartreuse ice spoon that was silver on one side. But they didn't want it.
It's a proven rig for pond bluegills, but I had only a few taps, one hooked fish, and the waxworm was otherwise ignored. Then it occurred that maybe in such clear, shallow depths, the bright spoon was spooking, rather than attracting. So, I picked up a second rod with a simple black hook, baited up, and bang, had a nice bluegill. Then another, and another. That was the answer.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org