My first time fishing a private pond

There’s just something about the prospect of fishing a private pond that gets my mind racing.

Little to no fishing pressure with fish that are raised in a relatively-controlled environment immediately sparks images of once-in-a-lifetime catches.

Every time I see a sign that reads “Private, No fishing,” I think two things: there are definitely fish in there and they are probably big.

The idea of actually fishing one of these spots excited me.

I’ve never considered this type of angling “genuine fishing.” In a way, it seemed unfair. But I’ve always wanted to do it and have never been given the chance.

Recently, I was afforded that opportunity when an old friend of mine reached out and said he wanted to take me to a place just south of my hometown in Sheboygan Falls. He had previously done some landscaping work for the owner and over time was granted permission to fish the roughly two-acre pond. Bass, crappie, perch, bluegill, and even walleye were part of this natural aquarium, he said. Some of the bluegill grew to over 10 inches and a few of the crappie were pushing 16.

This got my blood pumping. One of the simple rules I operate by is: if someone is kind enough to offer up an invitation to fish or hunt on private land, I should do everything in my power to take advantage. You never know when you’ll be presented with a chance like that again.

Eventually, we were able to make our schedules align and we planned a quick evening ice fishing trip just after a considerable snowfall.

I was confident, but I spent much of the morning trying to temper my expectations. Even though this was a controlled situation, we were still pursuing live animals. They all had to eat at some point, but they didn’t necessarily have to be active when we were there. Still, I had high hopes.

As it turned out, it didn’t take long for my concerns to subside.

We met in the driveway, loaded up the sled and began our trek to the backyard of the 10-acre property. The snow had subsided, but the cloud cover remained. If not for the wood dock, the recent snowfall would have all but concealed the pond’s existence.

The owner occasionally fished the pond with his grandchildren during the warmer months but rarely, if ever, fished it through the ice.

“He told me that a few years ago, a couple muskrats cleaned this pond out,” my friend explained as we trudged in the calf-deep snow toward the pond. “They’re both hanging over his fireplace now.”

After the first hole was drilled, I excitedly dropped the transducer of my flasher into the water and it became apparent there were plenty of fish underneath us. I hurriedly tipped my red tungsten jig with a wax worm and went to work.

It kind of felt like a Christmas morning when you have a good idea what you’re getting, but you still can’t wait to open the presents anyway.

Seconds later, I had a fish on. I brought the five-inch bluegill to the surface, unhooked it, and set it back in the water. Not the size I was hoping for, but at least the fish were hungry.

Knowing we were on top of a good school, my friend drilled a few more holes and set up his shack. That’s when the fun began in earnest.

My friend explained that, once he locates the fish, he doesn’t even use his flasher. I kept mine on because I enjoyed the rush brought on by knowing the sheer number of fish that were congregated in the 10 feet of water below.

I was told the larger fish preferred minnows, rosy reds to be specific. I tipped my jig with, what basically looked like a skinny goldfish, and sent it toward the bottom.

My friend was right. The next fish was a nearly nine-inch bluegill. The thick and healthy-looking specimen was close to the largest I had ever caught.

“Basically, I ask myself how many fish I want to catch and that’s how many minnows I buy,” my friend said with a laugh. He explained to me that, on one of his last trips here, he and his friend ran out of bait before their agreed-upon fishing time was over.

We each fished with two rods, holding one while watching the tip of the other for signs of action.

“There are times when you’ll have a fish on both,” my friend said. “Just pick the bigger one and deal with the other one later. Your arms are going to get tired. It’s chaos.”

He was right about that too. Keeping all four lines in the water proved to be all but impossible.

One-by-one we pulled fish up. Mostly bluegills in the eight-inch range with some bordering on 10. Each fish was well-built and muscular.

Before I knew it, the alarm on my friend’s phone was going off. “Time to pack up,” he said. “But first, three more fish.”

We hauled-in four more panfish before disassembling the shack and heading back to our vehicles.

Though we were there for less than an hour, we caught roughly two-dozen.

Was it like shooting fish in a barrel? Kind of. But it was still quite exciting. In fact, it was a great way to experiment with new techniques and presentations.

It was everything I hoped it would be.

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