There are two real fishing spots within two miles of my house. Neither are amazing, but both will do in a pinch. One is an abandoned 1800s water supply reservoir for Baltimore City, which I've been fishing for 10 years and have purposefully blogged about it (here and here to name a couple posts) - without ever naming the place. The stream below it is known as a great spot for 10-12" smallmouth bass. I've not fished it since I started blogging. Both are within a local park (owned by the city, leased by the county) named after a certain Confederate fellow.
When I first started fishing there in 2001 or 2002, it was depressing to see people lining the banks with 6, 7, and 8 rods and bobbers, obviously keeping every single fish they caught (which is alarming, since the lake is totally contaminated with Chlordane, an old termiticide and one of the most potent insecticides KNOWN TO MAN). Despite perfect conditions on many trips, I had a lot of really awful days fishing there over the years, mainly (I think) due to fishing pressure (esp. subsistence fishermen) and water pollution (old stuff plus new pollution coming downstream). I have also caught a decent number of fish over the years.
Unfortunately, it's been closed to the public almost since I last fished it in 2009. It's managed by Baltimore County....let's see what their website, last updated on April 4, 2011, says about it:
XXXXXXXX Park is scheduled to reopen in Fall 2011. This XXX acre park was recently leased to Baltimore County and is currently closed while construction and renovations are taking place.
So imagine my surprise when I checked the DNR's self-serve, searchable fishing report today and I read this:
Excellent Sunday fishing
Location: Lake XXXXX
From: Ellie S.
This picture proves it. We had a ton of fun. I have fished the attached lower portions of the XXXXXXX river with similar luck. Crappies and pumpkinseed galore on fly. The Largemouth in this photo was caught on a minnow popper. The others on plastic worm, spoons, and a very cool grasshopper popper. I had to show some love for a much appreciated refuge so close to the city. A beautiful spot, and a great day. Hope you enjoy.
OK. So this lake has been closed to the public for nearly three years because of the ridiculous water pollution, unsafe pedestrian access, homeless camps, etc. So I'm equally frustrated that people are fishing it illegally, and also that they left a permanent record of their great fishing trip to my "secret spot." (more on that in a bit).
But it begs the question, In this age of bing, google earth, and cyberscouting, is there such a thing as a secret spot on urban public land?" Maybe. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this certain spot has been abused, neglected and overfished for years - maybe decades. The only reason that I used to be able to catch bass there (prior to the park's closure) is because I was willing to work harder than almost anybody who fished there. Honestly, I'm jealous that some folks (Ellie and friends) could pop in there through the construction fencing and catch fish so easily! Jealousy, indeed, is at the core of the "secret spot" mantra. When I think of Ellie and her friend casually fly fishing that reach, kept out of the hands of poachers for 3 years now, I get jealous. Can't help it.
But we're missing a huge point here. Appreciation of these lesser-known spots, whether they are beaches or mountain streams or urban ponds, is what keeps them in existence and open to the public, so some government agency doesn't drain them/pave over them/close them permanently. And I think this was the goal of Ellie and company. Despite her best efforts, no one will travel from outside the County or City to fish this spot. By that same logic, if the City or County decide to permanently close it to fishing, will anyone outside the County or City care? Probably not. That would suck for people like Ellie.....and me. Just another insult to that little, promising fishery, I suppose.
So I guess what I'd implore you to do is to not post such bold advertisements for "lesser known public spots" on public websites, to be read, interpreted and used far outside of your sphere of control. But at the same time, I encourage you to take new people to your fishing, hunting, paddling, climbing, and surfing spots - or to even email a buddy a map of the place. While it adds "1 more person" (really "1 more person" + three of their friends) to the land-pressure equation, it also adds "1 more ally" to keeping these places open to the public and at least slightly managed by the agencies who own them.
There is such a thing as a secret public spot in urbanized America- it's just that it's a secret to you and 5,000 people you don't know, who like you, also don't get out to fish nearly often enough.
Promise me something - do the resource a favor, and tell some people, but not everybody, about it if you're lucky enough to know of a special place like this.