In 2011, my wife and I moved to a new town. It’s not too far from my old home and fishing spots in New Jersey, but the address change gave me a reason to look for new water last summer and this spring. I’m not talking about the kind of water that requires packing a lunch and getting on the road before sunup, but rather those little ponds you hit on the way home from work, or between a dentist appointment and a stop at the post office. Often it’s these gems, nestled in manicured neighborhoods and tucked behind strip malls, that surprise you with bass, pickerel, crappies, and bluegills that are bigger and less pressured than those in the closest reservoir. Since you may never see such spots from main roads, the trick to finding them starts with some online sleuthing.
Google a Pond
Thanks to the satellite imagery provided by Google Maps and other online services, finding small bodies of water you didn’t know existed is as entertaining as a Where’s Waldo? book. Start by entering your address into the search box, then zoom in or out until the scale in the bottom left corner of the map reads 1 inch equals 500 feet. Drag the map and look for water, carefully searching a mile or two at a time in all directions.
While my scouting turned up small lakes and ponds at parks, I was more interested in those waters most of the public doesn’t see. To find them, I focused on housing developments, shopping centers, and office complexes. Neighborhood ponds are often farm ponds that existed long before the homes were built. New-development ponds are frequently stocked with gamefish to control mosquito populations, and lily pads or milfoil planted to aerate the water. Likewise, heavy commerce areas often have runoff retention basins (look by the back parking lots) or decorative ponds that hold fish. Of course, you can also find ponds hidden in the woods or a farmer’s field, but fishing those may require knocking on doors. Others may be posted; of the eight bodies of water I found on the computer last summer, half turned out to be legally accessible. But that’s all part of the hunt.
With bass on the brain, I carried just a few crankbaits and poppers on my first explorations. One pond, just 2 miles from home and ringed by backyards except at one corner, produced a 3-pound bass and a few of its smaller cousins.
I was treated to a real surprise while scoping out a -fountain-filled pond on the property of a local community college. So many big carp were sipping in the film that I sped home to get a fly rod. The pond has since become my favorite place to cast dry flies at suckermouths.
The other two accessible ponds my flagship hunt turned up contained nothing but small bluegills and turtles, so this spring I expanded my search parameters by a few miles and discovered three new ponds. One was tucked behind a local amusement park and surrounded by a high fence. The other two were the centerpieces of recently built neighborhoods. The first, it appeared, was tinted aqua to give it that tropical look. I saw no signs of life. The second gave up some bluegills, and gauging by the looks of it, I’ll move a fish with some heft in the pads on the far side before Labor Day.
From the July 2012 issue of Field & Stream magazine.
Photograph by Timothy Divine.