Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Scouting and Fishing the Post-Industrial Landscape

You probably haven't heard anything about the economy crumbling, or vast landscapes of unused real estate, or anything like that.  So, you'll probably be surprised to find out that there is a lot of abandoned property in the United States right now.  Oh yeah, I'm going there.

80s Teen Vampires are Gnar-Rad!  Let's hang out at the
abandoned truck transfer facility, bros!
I could describe for you what kinds of activities we used to do in abandoned industrial parks when we were 16 and 18, and 20 years old, but since my wife, parents, and coworkers all occasionally read this blog, let's skip that part.  Here in the mid-atlantic, most residential, commercial, and industrial properties built during the last real estate boom (roughly 1993-2007) were required to minimize their impacts on water bodies, and also create stormwater ponds to treat runoff.   Most of those areas are marginal (dry in summer) wetlands and dry (sand bottom) stormwater ponds - which both mean no fish.   However,  you never know until you go.  And you should go. Where to start?
Not places like this. 

Let me clarify.  I am all about fishing or hunting in areas where it's not specifically allowed or not allowed, but that are specifically open to the public. I've even blogged some tips for doing it - here, here, and here.  But once I see a "no trespassing" or "no hunters" or "no fishing" sign, especially on private property, it's all over.  Maybe you're bold enough to challenge the enforcement of somebody's clearly expressed property rights. But I'm not, and I don't recommend it.  What to look for, then, when it comes to private property? How about this:

And this.

Places where the pond, creek, or riverbank like this.........

are fronted by an existing office or factory building that are in this approximate condition:

Nobody at work, "for lease" sign, no company logo, empty offices, 
and landscaping that has not been maintained for about a year.  SCORE.

So, I was back in my old stomping grounds in the Virginia Beach area recently and caught up with my brother the Gnutty Professor.  He was complaining about the lack of freshwater fishing access near his house (other than for tiny crappie in the Dismal Swamp Canal).  So just for fun, we put Hank in the truck and drove across the highway from his house, to a mostly abandoned industrial park.

Most of the buildings are shuttered, with "for lease" signs about every 100 feet.  Since the area is just above sea level, there are ponds everywhere, and many of the ponds near the front of the industrial park are surrounded by "no parking" signs (I take that as a challenge).  However, as we worked our way back into the former swamp, we found spur roads with no "no parking" signs, no anything.   And no ponds, either.  On one side of the road was this huge berm with "pipeline" signs up on the crest.

Doesn't look real fishy. After driving around for awhile and not seeing any of this alleged "deep water" that we saw on the interwebs mapping, we finally got bored, parked the truck, and climbed up and over the berm.  Any guess what was on the other side?

Yeah....exactly.  Not too shabby.  Gnutty threw some lures around but the sun was up pretty high already, with air temps around 97 or so, and 80% humidity.  Not real fishy conditions, despite the primo spot!

On the opposite side of the road was a rough looking, deep, dark shadowy pine forest.  But if you actually get out of your vehicle and walk up to it, you can see the 10 acre+ pond inside the trees.  It has a sandy bottom, and we found a guerilla kayak we know that others have found this place too.   Gnutty Gnu couldn't resist the urge to throw some plastic around the water, and at bare minimum, I did see live minnows, so I know that the pond hasn't been poisoned or anything crazy.  Both ponds have the appearance of being abandoned sand mines - the sand being used to fill in the adjacent swampland so that roads and factory buildings could be constructed.   Ahh, the good old days............

We didn't have any time to cover the shoreline, and I had little Hank in tow, so we weren't at all surprised to not catch any fish. But hopefully Nutty was surprised to find such a collection of good looking spots within a five minute drive of his house.  How about you? What local spot have you neglected, because you assume it's off limits or somehow unfishable??


e.m.b. said...

Great post...was planning on doing a bit of exploring this weekend, and you've bolstered me. ;) Cheers!

Jay said...

Great suggestion. I live in the land of urban sprawl and know of a lot places similar to what you have described. Sounds like I need to do some exploring.

Kirk Mantay said...

Go for it....never know what you might find! My success rate for good spots is about 25%. You just gotta go and find the good ones!

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