At the height of summer a lurid green may blanket your local farm pond. But beneath it could lie fish which have grown fat on rich and unusual diets and escaped the notice of other anglers
Farm ponds offer some really first class sport well away from the more popular venues. For almost the entire coarse season and especially during the summer months, many quality fish can be caught.
To find the really prolific ponds, you will need to question the locals, farmers, villagers and game wardens. Alternatively, invest in an Ordnance Survey map of your area. You will then be able to reconnoitre all the local ponds. Some may have dried up or been filled in since the map was drawn up; but others will have escaped the attention of anglers for years and be full of good fish. It is well worth while exploring every pinprick of blue on the map.
Not all the ponds you locate will contain good fish. And if the local farmer has been irritated by anglers, you may find permission to fish difficult to obtain. On the other hand some farmers have stocked their ponds for anglers since the growth in popularity of carp fishing and make a small charge. In addition,
During the winter months some farmers use their ponds for duck shooting, regularly enticing wild birds onto the water by spreading either barley, wheat or corn around the margins. The fish will learn to accept this grain as a part of their natural diet, and you will have a first-class bait. The commotion caused by numbers of water birds in the confines of a small pond also means that the fish are used to disturbances and, more important, that the shallow water is continually stirred up and coloured.
The colour of a farm pond varies, according to the land, from pea green to sandy brown. Most farm ponds benefit from all the nitrates and phosphates washed in from the fields and, in warm, sunny conditions, millions of microscopic water plants known as phytoplankton pro-duce a dense green colour. Zooplankton such as daphnia can also colour a pond at times. Sunny weather stimulates the reproduction of these tiny crustaceans; in cloudy, rainy weather they sink to the lower water layers and are not so evident and overnight the pond clears. For most of the summer months, when the water is coloured and there are high levels of phyto- and zooplankton, fishing is good at almost any time of day.
Roach, tench, perch and rudd inhabit farm ponds, along with crucian carp. All crucians caught tend to be of the same size. This phenomenon also occurs in ponds over-stocked with the fully-scaled wild carp, a much longer, leaner fish than its mirror-scaled, selectively bred cousin. Because they are rich in food, with an ideal spawning environment, most farm ponds do appear to be overstocked, but every now and again a fish four times larger than the average is hooked. So there is always an element of surprise, even in tiny, crowded ponds.
One of the carp’s most common foods is the pond or water-louse (Asellus); it is similar in shape to the land-dwelling wood louse. These creatures – along with blood-worms – live in their millions in the rotting vegetation covering the bottom. Water boatmen (Corixa) also inhabit this bottom layer. There is a wealth of animal food on the bottom of all ponds, in addition to the small sheet of pea-green water which would only suggest a rich plant life.
To find out what fish are there, and to take the largest ones, it pays to visit at dawn and watch for bubbling to start. Farm ponds start bubbling at the crack of dawn. You will see tiny patches of crucian bubbles – more effervescent and smaller than tench bubbles – and the large bubbles made by cruising carp.
The natural feeding of the larger fish, betrayed by bubbles on the surface, lasts only a few hours after dawn on sunny days, and starts again in the late evening. During periods of poor light, when it is cloudy or raining lightly, the feeding bubbles can be seen for most of the day. Keep a watchful eye for any signs of the better fish in feeding mood. Casting to an individual fish, whose bubbles can be seen as it roots along on the bottom, often results in an immediate capture.
Perhaps the most surprising species to be found in farm ponds is the eel, which can grow exceedingly fat on the rich food for many years before its mating urge calls it back to the Sargasso Sea in the South Atlantic. There may not be many eels in a farm pond, but they will most certainly be big, providing exciting fishing in the confined, often snaggy environment. Their diet consists of just about anything on the bottom margins – lobworms, beetles, slugs and small fish such as rudd or baby crucians. Additionally, during periods of strong wind, much food, including floating dead fish, will be blown to the windward shore, and eels will feed there after dark.
As weather conditions fluctuate during the course of a year – a long drought, rain for weeks on end, or perhaps a long freeze-up during the winter months – the ecology of a farm pond can change equally drastically. If, for instance, a pond heavily stocked with small wild carp plus a few small rudd and tench ices over, most of the wild carp die from lack of oxygen. The result is an increase in size of the remaining stock. A similar situation occurs if a pro-lific pond holding several species is netted. Those fish which are left have the opportunity of growing larger; over the succeeding years the pond will mature, but whether it stabilizes finally for more than a couple of years, depends on the weather, which dictates available food chains. Think back to a water you fished five years ago. The chances are small of you being able to visit that water now and catch the same species and size of fish.