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Pond Hopping in Search of Stock Tank Magic

I’VE BEEN FORTUNATE over the years to have had the opportunity to soak my baits in some of the very best fishin’ holes in the world. Interestingly, some of the fondest memories of all are tied to water bodies so small in size that you could stand on one side and hit the opposite bank with a lure if you weren’t careful.

Some folks call them ponds. Others call them mini-lakes. Back when I was a growing up, we always called them tanks—heavenly places where an adventuresome youngster could roam for hours and never get bored until darkness forced you to go indoors.

I wasn’t an expert pond hopper, but I could hop with the best of them back in the day. I got plenty of practice on playing fields all over north Texas. My dad always saw to that.

Dad was a born and raised country guy who grew up in the Great Depression. He picked cotton as a kid, worked as an electrician on a U.S. Navy destroyer escort and eventually banged out a modest living as a troubleshooter for General Telephone. He also fooled around with cattle and sold a little real estate on the side. Farms and ranches were his forte.

The real estate gig lead to plenty of gate keys along with lots of open invitations to wet a hook or go hunting whenever he wanted.

Over time, dad gained access to fishing holes all over Collin and Hunt counties. We even had places to go in Fannin County, but we rarely visited them.

If we ventured that far north, it was usually to check cattle, mend a fence or fish at our small farm near Leonard.

There was one tank in place when dad bought the land in the late-1960s. Two more were added and stocked in short order. In time, they produced some of the prettiest crappie and channel cat you’ve ever seen.

There’s no telling how many fish were caught from those tanks by friends and family. The time we spent watching our bobbers dance in the wind ranks among my fondest childhood memories, and I’m thankful for them. Otherwise, I may have never come to realize the huge rewards to be reaped from wetting a hook in tiny bodies of water.

Stock tank magic lives everywhere. Thousands of private ponds and lakes dot the Texas landscape. If you own one, or know somebody who does, now would be a good time to pay it a visit if the owner gives you the green light. Some golf courses may even allow fishing, if you ask.

If your deer lease has a few stock tanks, and fishing rights are in the agreement, it might be a good idea to bring along a rod/reel and a few baits when you head out for opening weekend. It will give you something do if you kill out early or want a change of pace when the deer aren’t moving.

Fall’s cooling trends are sure to put the fish in the mood to munch. Better yet, many tanks may not have seen a hook in a year or more.

Most stock tanks can be fished efficiently from shore. This holds especially true if those miniature jewels are less than one to two acres in size. If there’s a laydown log, weed bed, stump or stick-up in such a mini-lake, it’s usually within easy casting distance of the bank.

Larger tanks can be fished from shore, but you might be more successful using a small flat bottom, kayak, belly boat or by wading.

I like the convenience of fishing from a float tube.

Not only does the float tube mean more mobility, but it’s much safer. Float tubes also enable you slip into fishy areas without being detected.

If you forget everything else you’ve read here, remember this.

Never take the liberty of fishing in a private lake without asking permission first. That’s trespassing. It could get you into trouble with the law and cost you brisk fines if you get caught and the landowner presses charges.

Not every private property owner will allow a complete stranger to fish, but some of them will. The key is to ask politely, convince the landowner you’re trustworthy and then prove it.

Leave every gate like you found it, don’t leave any trash behind, and don’t keep any fish unless the landowner says it’s all right.

Better yet, make yourself useful. Ask the landowner whether he has any odd jobs around the place you could do in exchange for fishing. One good deed could lead to long-term access to a magical place.

 

Email Matt Williams at [email protected]

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