Thursday, June 25, 2020

Making the most of a small pond part two: gravel

By Bill Prater
Even before bulldozers, settlers along the rivers and streams of the Colorado quarried rocks and sand for construction of roads and buildings, a process that continues today. Surprisingly, many resulting holes in the ground hold decent populations of fish, and some are open to the public. If you’re looking for a place closer to home to fish, how do you tell the good from the mediocre? You can go from one to another with a pole, of course, but you can improve your odds with advance sleuthing.
As we've talked about elsewhere, Google Earth can help you learn a lot about a body of water without wetting a line, and Fish Explorer and the Colorado Fishing Atlas can provide other insights. But there’s a lot you can do for yourself. (See links below)
Once you’ve identified public waters (and accessible private ponds, if you’re fortunate), scout before you fish. With water as it is in the West, we don’t have many farm ponds like the ones in the Midwest and south, dug with an intention to hold both water and fish. Most of our ponds are old gravel pits shaped like a bathtub, with little variation in depth, and predictably steep banks dropping quickly into deep water. Whether or not they’re worth investing your worms depends on additional factors.  A precious few were finished off with an eye toward making them a fishery; if you’re not near one of those, you can still find ponds with a few islands or humps that once held quarrying machinery. And there may be other irregularities in the bottom due to things like variations in veins of sand and gravel. 
Also, ask around, or check newspaper and other Internet files to see whether the pond has had pollution problems; some sugar cane operations left a nasty legacy, for example, and high tech manufacturers and others left chemicals in their wake that haunt us still. But if you’re finding reasonably clean water, it’s time to look closer. 
Fishing from the bank presents special problems. With little variation in depth or soil type, most around here are lined with cattails, making access difficult. (The flip side of that is, if you can find a way to reach the outside edges of those cattails, your chances of success are multiplied.) The best answer is to fish from a float tube, but that’s not always possible, particularly with kids. Some anglers have stomped down the cattails in places so they can fish; I wouldn’t recommend that, but if a bare spot of shoreline is there, use it. Sometimes a better option is to wear knee boots and locate points of land stretching into the water. Without wading too deep, you may be able to cast parallel to the outside edge of those cattails. You’ll be dropping your lure where both predators and panfish like to hide. Fishing further out in waders can be productive but may be prohibited; that’s tricky anyway because the bottom typically drops off suddenly.
If the water’s murky, it can be difficult to locate the edges of weed beds, which are usually the best and sometimes the only structures in an old pit. Clarity can vary from season to season; check periodically for clearer water and try to spot and memorize the location of weed beds, drop offs, shallow flats. This is not an article on fishing techniques. But let me say that one of the best tools for learning bottom composition and depth is a football jig rigged weedless and fished with fairly heavy tackle. You can feel your way along the bottom and in the process catch a bass or two, if they’re in there.
The real bonus to many of these ponds is, they’re deep enough to maintain at least a seasonal trout fishery, and our friends at Colorado Parks and Wildlife have created good local fisheries. Being an old Midwesterner, I was kind of contemptuous of put-and-take trout for years after I moved here. Then I realized 1. Those fish will bite long before and after warm water species are in near hibernation. 2. If you find the right circumstances, you can find at least a few stockers grown to bragging size.
When you’ve done all this, and think you’ve located one or two ponds with good potential, I wouldn’t blame you for choosing to keep it to yourself. Anyway, that give others the pleasure of discovering the place the way you did.
Resources:  
Colorado Fishing Atlas app https://cpw.state.co.us/Pages/CPW-Fishing-App.aspx

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