I have been a small water fisherman for many years in the summer months. It wasn’t until the mild winters of the past several years that I have had to go to smaller bodies of water to find safe ice. I consider small water fishing farm ponds, detention basins and public park bodies of water. Fishing these smaller bodies is really quite relaxing as the crowds are almost non- existent.
Most of the waters contain panfish, largemouth bass and even a few northern pike. With very little fishing pressure the fish in smaller waters tend to bite more aggressively.
When I arrive at a pond or small lake, after checking for safe ice, I always head to the deepest water available. On lakes I will make an assumption on water depth based on the steepness of the bank adjacent to the water. The steeper the bank usually means the deeper the water. For ponds, I always start on the side of the pond with an embankment; this seems to be consistently the deepest water. For the most part, I usually end up fishing in about 6-8 ft of water. I bring my Vexilar FL-12 to eliminate areas void of fish. Fish the greenest weeds available. Green means that oxygen is being released while supplying cover and food for the panfish. Zoo plankton serves as the main food source for the panfish.
I am jig fishing almost exclusively. I bring my 50 inch long poles with stillfish reels and my basic jig rods teamed with a small ultra light reel spooled with 1 lb Lindy ice line. The most essential tool is a quality light action spring bobber to detect those light biters. My favorite jig to use is a Lindy Toad or a Lindy Bug, size #14, tipped with a couple of spikes. Effective colors for me start with green/chartreuse or a dark color like purple or black. I start with a very light jigging action and an occasional pause. Reading the Vexilar will help determine how the fish are reacting to the jigging presentation. I will adjust my jigging style to initiate the most strikes.
In small water bodies, you should be able to fish the entire area to find the active fish. When fishing private farm ponds it is almost guaranteed to find some quality fish. These fish will react to weather patterns and air pressure just like any other body of water. Fishing is small waters; it is never good to harvest too many fish as over harvesting can wipe out the fishery. If you try a small lake or farm pond and the fish are “stunted”, I will try to find another place to fish. A stunted fish is a very small sized fish caused by an over population. This is caused by an imbalance of the predator/prey relationship.
Where I live in Walworth County in Southeastern Wisconsin, I have found the best small water areas are city or state parks. Make sure you are familiar with any fishing regulations on a specific water body. I fish some urban fisheries which have regulations and of course, if fishing a private pond you need to get permission. Make sure to use caution, as some ponds and small lakes have a current in them due to outlets or heavy springs so ice conditions can vary greatly.