Monday, April 25, 2011
My first spot check was a community pond near my office. The community is interested in possibly converting the pond to a wetland at some point, which is right up my alley. While the pond was private, the outfall into a local stream was public and possibly fishable - it turned out to be awful fish habitat. Finished my work there and moved on to spot check #2.
Bass were literally jumping out of the water here! And it's public land! And no one fishes it!
Spot #2 is a gigantic stormwater pond, about 25 acres in size and about 3 years old, between a river and a new monstrosity of a shopping center. The pond is hidden by forest on 3 sides, and by a retaining wall on the fourth side. The pond still looks very "new", with close-mowed vegetation around the edges and no structure in the pond yet. It's also clear from seeing the site that fish will not be able to move upslope from the river to get into the pond. I imagine someone will eventually stock it without the property owner's knowledge, and eventually the banks will become overgrown and turn into more suitable habitat for fish prey items like frogs and large insects. This process will probably take 5-8 years, if not longer. Plus, technically speaking, this is "private property" and once the entire site has been developed there will probably be signs that read "no trespassing" that will be enforced by "County police." Minor details, in the scheme of things.
I've complained about for years - weird access hours, weird regulations, no kayaks allowed, six dozen locked gates, etc. Let's call it "Highway Ponds WMA."
"Highway Ponds" is composed of a series of ponds in the floodplain of the Patuxent River. Last year, I called the agency in charge of the property and asked for the gate code. The fourth time I called, someone answered, was very polite, and quickly surrendered the code. Thank you!
I made it out to the site's most accessible (and smallest) three ponds last May, and found them nearly unfishable due to vegetation and algae. Yet, there were plenty of fish. The habitat was in great shape - no question about that.
This week, I trekked out to the property's most remote ponds and was pretty ecstatic about what I found. One pond was gigantic with several islands and peninsulae, featuring several lengths of shoreline with little or no aquatic vegetation, and nice sandy/stony substrate - an amazing fishing opportunity! I saw a large number of fat old bass hanging around the shoreline, although it was clear that they saw me, too.
The furthermost pond from the road (pic above, right) is actually in the woods. It's totally shaded, a bit shallow, and I'll be interested to see if the water stays cool enough to hold bass in the summer. At least it won't be full of emergent vegetation! I will try a little baitcaster fishing in here this summer - it's a tight spot!
One of the neatest things about "Highway Ponds WMA" is that it's specified for catch and release for all bass, but anglers are encouraged to keep any and all sunfish of any size - no creel limit. I will definitely be hitting the property up - especially these two "rear ponds" - in the next month to catch some panfish for the dinner table. In the end, it was fortuitous that I did not have my fishing tackle with me, because there is no way I would have been able to go back to work after seeing all those fish. I'll get 'em next time!
But make no mistake - the clock is ticking - here comes the algae!