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Summer's often overlooked fishing holes in southern Illinois

  • Logan Smith is no stranger to farm pond fishing where he landed this big catch.

    Logan Smith is no stranger to farm pond fishing where he landed this big catch.
    Courtesy of Eric Smith

  • Sophie Walker, right, needed the help of her mom, Kathleen, to drag this big fish from a local farm pond.

    Sophie Walker, right, needed the help of her mom, Kathleen, to drag this big fish from a local farm pond.
    Courtesy of Eric Smith

 
Submitted by Don Gasaway
Williamson County Tourism
updated: 7/1/2020 6:38 PM

It is easy to overlook some of summer's best fishing. We spend so much of our fishing attention on lakes, reservoirs, and rivers while overlooking those ponds so close to home. These are not only in the country but many towns and cities have ponds, small lakes, and water retention ponds.

The countryside is dotted with ponds ranging from less than an acre to those several hundred acres. They are often tailor-made for curing your "Fishing Fix" during the week. There are usually more fish per acre in ponds than in a larger lake or reservoir. Ponds that receive light fishing pressure can be productive if one adapts his approach.

When fishing ponds you may run across bluegill, sunfish, catfish, or bass. Some pond owners also add crappies, usually appropriated from some nearby large body of water. If managed well, pond fish do quite well.

Good fishery management includes fertilization and harvest control. Fertilization adds to the nutrient base and controls undesirable vegetation in much the same way a farmer tends his fields.

Most ponds experience algae problems during the warmer months. Two species in particular can be harmful, filamentous algae and blue-green algae.

Filamentous is a stringy type of vegetation. The blue-green algae forms light green, frothy mats on the surface. It is best to destroy these algae before adding fertilizer. Unfortunately, many landowners do not want to take the time or invest the money in their ponds. They still can be good fishing holes just that they are frustrating to the angler whose lure tangles in the vegetation.

Fish kills also occur from time to time on small ponds. If just a few fish or one species of fish dies then it is probably a disease that is killing them. However, if fish of several species overnight it is most likely a chemical problem. Chemical problems can be low oxygen, insecticide, or herbicide contamination.

Assuming the pond you have found contains healthy fish there still are other considerations. Fishing a pond can be as challenging as fishing larger bodies of water just different.

Ponds are the anglers' version of shooting fish in a barrel. He still needs to apply sound fishing knowledge of seasonal patterns, activity, and location of specific species. Bass in a pond follow the same daily movement patterns as fish anywhere. Channel catfish tend to want to school and move around the pond at regular intervals. Anglers have to move with them.

Pond anglers need to use smaller baits and wear clothing that protects them from insects and plants found around a pond. He needs to be quiet when walking and casting. Cast parallel to the bank rather than out to the middle of the pond. If there is an aerator in the middle, chances are the fish will migrate toward the highly oxygenated water.

If using a float (bobber) then the smaller the better. The relatively shallow water demands one not make a big splash during casting. A small float does not produce a large overhead image to frighten fish.

On cool days bass feed below the surface and usually take underwater lures and baits presently slowly. As the water warms, they strike surface lures near the shoreline early in the morning or late in the evening.

During daylight, fish migrate to locations near stumps, fallen trees, and point jutting out from shore.

If live bait is preferred then minnows, crayfish, frogs, and night crawlers are the ticket. Hook sizes of 1/0 to 6/0 are the usual choices.

Bluegills and sunfish are vulnerable as they take to the spawning beds or along weed beds near submerged brush. The simple cane pole, small float, and number 8 to 12 hook baited with earthworms, crickets, catalpa worms, leeches or maggots is a popular choice. Jiggle the bait up and down off the bottom. Sometimes you leave it motionless on the bottom.

Catfish shun the light and feed near the bottom. Most of their feeding is in low light or at night. The pole and line method described above works with number 2 or 4 circle hook. Bait is usually pieces of fish, crayfish, blood bait, chicken or turkey livers, cheese or stink baits.

To receive a free color "Water, Woods and Wildlife in Williamson County" guide, contact VisitSI at 1602 Sioux Drive, Marion, IL 62959. Call 800-GEESE-99 or email info@VisitSI.com. Current information is also available online at www.VisitSI.com.