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Farm pond, oh farm pond. Where art thou?

Article and photos by Bill Adelman
06/29/15 -- The thrill of victory doesn’t end with downhill skiing. In many cases, it ends with a farmer giving you permission to fish a private farm pond. When I relocated to farming country in 1959, it didn’t take long for the mystique of farm pond fishing to grab my attention. What little fishing I was able to do in SoCal generally involved bass, crappie and bluegill. Up north there seemed to also be three species of fresh water fish available, and that would be bass, bass and bass of the green variety.
Farm fishing pond quietly nestled in the mountains, photo by Bill Adelman
Farm pond fishing has its own mystique

Lake Berryessa was just planted the year prior, so we ventured forth with the first ever black worm, the Crème 6 incher with 2 pre-set embedded gold hooks and a spinner on the front. Our plan was to add a small split shot at the nose, fling it from shore and catch a bunch of 12-14 inch greenies. And it worked. However, in the back of our minds was the ever mysterious farm pond. One of our coworkers had the inside track on one and we were finally able to acquire permission, a gate key and access.

Placid waters of a foothill farm pond, photo by Bill Adelman
Getting permission to fish a private farm pond is a not always easy, but it is well worth the effort.

Up to this point, my best ever was a 3½ pounder taken on a surface lure at Lake Wohlford. Well, that didn’t last long. On our first trip I was tossing a 6 inch MirroLure, white body with a red head. The diving lip was aluminum. Boy, talk about up to date baits. My first bass broke the 5 pound mark, and many more followed between 3 and 5. Does it get any better than this? It didn’t, right up until the entire county appeared to have permission and a key and there was often a waiting line to get the right spot. Keep looking. Back then it was much easier to find a farm pond, as most farmers didn’t threaten you with a 12 gauge or arrest. And when they refused you access, it was politely. Still, we located a few and continued to have better than average shore fishing. Boy if only we could get water bound and fish much more efficiently. Not a chance though, as bringing in a 12 foot row boat was always met with a bit of skepticism and refusals. If only I could afford a float tube, however the $15 price tag was prohibitive and I needed my spare cash for newer and better lures.

fish swimming on surface of farm pond, photo by Bill Adelman
Farm pond fishing is a great place to hone your skills

Then it really tightened up in the 80’s as farmers were tired of property damage, open gates and a plethora of trash left behind, and who could blame them? As the grape industry blossomed, farm ponds were necessary for storing water, and many were planted with bass and bluegill. Could this be a new opportunity? It was however, difficult. But we finally located one in an unnamed county, and have continued to fish it for 18 years. They allow us to store our aluminum boat out of the way and only electric motors are allowed. And yes, we pay an annual fee. The biggest plus here, other than the privacy, is that the bass have proliferated to astounding numbers, and we can’t kill anything as it’s 100% catch and release and artificial baits only. It’s truly a test track, as we can try new techniques to determine their effectiveness without going to public water, never knowing what might work and what might not. If it doesn’t work here within a half hour, try something else.

Angler Tom Hargis was obvioulsy pleased to catch and release this beautful bass , photo by Bill Adelman
Angler Tom Hargis was obvioulsy pleased to catch and release this beautful bass

There are many tried and true baits that always work at certain times of the day. No matter where you fish, there's always that magic hour. Our evening hour, in the shade, will usually produce about 6 bass for every 10 casts. The top producers are the LWT, little white thing, and a 4 inch paddle tail soft rubber bait and the Baby Zara. If you need to try something new, now is the time. Keep these 2 baits handy however. Yes, it's difficult to locate farm ponds today, and it takes a lot more knocking to work it out. But when you do, consider whom you tell about it. Tight Lines !!!

Bill Adelman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of California. His work has appeared in the Fish Sniffer newspaper and MarketPlace magazine. He was a full time freshwater fishing guide for 20 years. Now retired he still likes to serve as a flyfishing instructor, rod builder, outdoor photographer and hunting mentor.

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