- They Exist Near Your Home
- They Beckon for Your Next Cast
- They Can Hold State Record Fish
By Larry Whiteley
I love to find hidden treasure, but not the gold or silver kind.
Hidden treasure for me is finding jewels of rarely fished small waters. By small waters, I mean privately owned farm ponds, strip pits, businesses with water retention ponds, and even golf course water hazards. Places a lot of people don’t even pay attention to or don’t even know they are there.
Many city parks departments and state fisheries departments stock small waters for public fishing, but a lot of these get very little fishing pressure.
There are thousands of these hidden small water treasures across America and are great places to catch fish in uncrowded conditions. Most are full of bass, crappie, perch, hybrid bluegill and catfish. All you have to do is search them out.
They are perfect for just walking the bank, launching a small johnboat, canoe, kayak or float tube. If you only have a few hours to fish, they are great! You can pretty well count on certain areas holding fish every time you go.
Unless they are public waters though, they are private and accessible only by permission from the landowner or the person in charge. You can try calling, but it is much better to get permission in person. Be courteous and thankful. You might also offer to share your catch if they allow you to keep fish.
My best tip for catching fish on small waters is to make as little noise or vibration as possible. In small bodies of water fish can see you. In fact, vibrations travel farther in small waters, so even if they can’t see you, they can tell someone is near the edge of the water. If fishing from the bank, walk up quietly and stay out of sight. It’s a good idea to even wear camouflage clothing.
Look for channels, humps, brush piles, lay down trees, weed beds, moss, cattails, lily pads, logs and tree stumps — anything that offers habitat for feeding fish.
For catfish, go with all the normal stinky catfish baits, as well as worms and I also like using shrimp bait. If it’s crappie you’re after, jigs and minnows are always good, but I have also caught some really big crappie in small water on crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
Perch jerkin’ is always fun and even more so if you go with ultra-light equipment. If the small waters happen to be stocked with hand size hybrid bluegill, you are in for a real fight and a great time.
For baits, look around for natural baits the fish are already feeding on. Catch some of these natural baits and impale them on a hook or match them as close as possible with artificial baits you have in your tackle box.
The crown jewel in the hidden treasure of small waters is the largemouth bass. America’s most sought after fish can grow very large in small waters, as long as the forage is right. So don’t let the size of a lake fool you into thinking there are no big bass in it.
Remember, George Perry’s world record bass came from Montgomery Lake in Georgia which is little more than a muddy slough — the silted-in remnants of an oxbow off the Ocmulgee River that continues to flow just a few yards away. Studded with cypress knees and shaded by Spanish moss, it is narrow enough to cast completely across.
Dixon Lake, a small city lake located in Escondido, California, is well known for several potential world record bass. One was caught and released and another was found dead.
I personally believe that the next world record largemouth bass could very well come from small waters like a pond, small lake or strip pit. It might just be your state’s record bass, but you would settle for that wouldn’t you?
With spinnerbaits and crankbaits, I can make a lot of casts and cover a lot of water. Plastic worms are good too, and use frog baits through the moss and lily pads. If I am fishing at night there’s nothing like the heart-stopping moment when a big bass hits a topwater bait.
After you are done fishing for the day, make sure you leave the property more clean than when you arrived. Now, go find the person that gave you permission and thank them for a great day, and offer to share your catch if you kept fish. Ask if you can come again, is it OK to bring a family member or two…and should you contact them each time?
Now, clutch them to your chest and love them like a wealthy uncle because yea verily I say unto you, these places are small treasures worth their weight in gold. Well, clutching them to your chest and loving them may be a little much, but make sure you let the property owners know you appreciate them.
Do everything you can do to insure you can keep coming back. Lastly, keep your small waters to yourself and don’t tell any of your fishing buddies where you found your hidden treasure.