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Making the most of a small pond Part Two: gravel

Blog by: Bill Prater 6/25/2020
Part of Series: Fishing for Beginners

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 written 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. 

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.


Google Earth

Colorado trout stocking report

Colorado Fishing Atlas app
Blog content © Bill Prater

Other Blogs in the Fishing for Beginners Series

When (and if ) you should lie about fishing by B. Prater 06.13.21
The trouble with writing an occasional fish story is, most readers won’t even agree on what kind of fish to catch, much less what to do with it afterward. (Eat that carp? or Let It Live to Bite Another Day?
The Loveland Kids Fishing Derby is back! by B. Prater 05.09.21
Pandemic caused cancellation of last year’s derby, but volunteers led by Loveland Police are picking up where they left off, prepping for the June 5 event. Know of any other kids fishing days planned that first weekend in June?
Get kids interested and excited to fish! by J. McFarland 03.22.21
Want your kids having fun fishing and not bored out of their minds? It's up to you to make it happen and here's a way to get started. Start here and see if your kids don't want to go more.
Stop complaining, and start fishing by B. Prater 03.12.21
The ice is disappearing right under our feet, but determined anglers can find ways to find late winter/early spring fish. We just have to work a little harder for it than folks in warmer climates.
Your First Five Lures by S. Brands 12.26.20
In this blog I want to focus on the first five lures you will want to add to your tackle box. These lures will catch fish of all species throughout the year when used properly!
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