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THE ART OF POND FISHING IN SOUTHERN ILLINOIS

by Don Gasaway

Master the techniques and you also can become the master of pond fishing. Quality angling opportunities go begging when one overlooks the lowly pond. Illinois has many farm ponds and local public fishing holes. Many anglers overlook them in search of better-known larger lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. It is a mistake that often allows fish to gain great size and fighting ability in unpressured waters. Small ponds, like those on the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge or area local and state parks, offer you a place to relax and fish. You can fish them unmolested by recreational boaters who may have left their manners at home. Fish without fear of your boat getting swamped by high-speed outboards or harassed by personal watercraft.

Most fishermen begin their careers on ponds. They often had nothing more than a cane pole, line, can of worms, afloat and some hooks. If they were special, they might have a push-button spin-cast reel made so popular by Zebco. By the way, they still make them today.

The key to being boss of the pond is to know the pond environment and make it work for you. You need to learn what areas attract fish and learn what fish are to be found in the pond. If you develop a “second sense” about where to find fish in one pond, the same skills work in others. The things that work in finding fish on small water also apply to big water.

Seek out natural habitat such as trees overhanging the water. Wood in the water is another attractant to all species of fish. They like the insects that fall from vegetation and relate to the wood for cover from which to ambush prey species. The wood or vegetation provides cover from bigger fish.
Areas such as rock or concrete will warm faster to the sun’s rays and the warmer water attracts the cold-blooded fish. If a stream or creek feeds into your pond the area where it enters the pond can produce fishing action. Predator fish hide just off the moving water in ambush. Moving water is higher in oxygen content and attracts fish.

Maps of an area assist in researching shoreline habitat and water depths. Fishing action is best early and late in the day or in sheltered areas. Because fish have no eyelids and as such are not likely to stay in areas of bright sunlight.

Most ponds contain minnows. In addition to being tasty morsels for dinner, they provide the first-time angler hours of fishing fun. Kids stay interested in fishing as long as they are catching fish. All you need is a fishing pole, line, hooks, a couple of split shots and a bobber for youngsters to enjoy themselves. Attract panfish with nightcrawlers and worms.

Are you looking for a monster bass or two? Many ponds have them and they are the boss of the pond until you catch them. Then you deserve the title of pond boss.

The same tackle you would use on big waterworks on ponds. So, it is a good idea to rig your tackle to match the target fish species. Use a stiff enough rod and heavy enough line to control your cast in the shoreline cover. If hung up in vegetation or some underwater structure, you cannot move your boat to release your hook. In vegetation, a heavy line will allow you to pull lose in many instances. When fishing for panfish, a wire hook will straighten out easily if caught in the grass.

For bass fishing, quick sinking crankbaits are a pain and hang up in the bottom structure. Spinners and small crankbaits are a better choice, for instance. Plastic worms about 6 to 8 inches in length, rigged Texas-style, are relatively weedless and work well in ponds.

A rule of thumb for pond fishing is a matter of scaled-down tackle for scaled-down waters. Throughout southern Illinois, there are many ponds open to the public. Most every town has a city reservoir stocked with fish such as crappie, sunfish, bass, and catfish. Most are easily accessible from Williamson County. The Illinois fishing regulations booklet lists numerous small bodies of water and what fish you will find there. The booklet is available online at www.dnr.il.state.us or from any of the IDNR offices and license vendor. 

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