Ponds: Good ol' backyard fishing holes

rphillips@idahostatesman.comApril 25, 2013 

Ponds are an overlooked treasure for local anglers and a quick, convenient getaway for fishing trips close to home.

There are 35 of them in the Treasure Valley and nearby communities. Ponds are easily accessible, user friendly, stocked with fish and offer up a few surprises.

"These are places where kids can get started fishing, but they are much more than that," said Joe Kozfkay, Idaho Fish and Game's southwest region fisheries manager. "Some of these ponds are people's primary places to go fishing."

Combined, Southwest Idaho's ponds attract as many anglers as some of its most popular large lakes and reservoirs.

Ponds also are a magnet for wildlife in a suburban setting, as well as a good place to have a picnic, or just get away and relax.

Idaho Fish and Game typically stocks ponds with trout at least once a month during spring, which means you have a good chance of catching a pan-size rainbow. The ponds also have bluegill and bass, and some even have channel catfish.

You might be surprised at the size of the bass that lurk in a pond, but beware, they're a lot smarter than you might expect. To grow large, they've learned to avoid a lot of hooks dangled in front of them.

"They're going to be a little more finicky than your average bass at Brownlee or C.J. Strike," said Rick Alsager, manager of Fish and Game's Nampa hatchery.

Ponds typically have good bank access, and some have fishing docks, which makes them good for people with limited mobility.

But don't hesitate using a float tube, canoe or kayak to fish from. You're more likely to find bigger fish when you get away from the obvious fishing spots along the shore.

While ponds are popular for beginning anglers because recently stocked trout tend to be pretty gullible, they can still be a challenging place to fish.

You may have to learn the quirks of each one and figure out the best times to fish there. Fish may congregate in the safest spots, and it might be some of the more challenging places - heavy cover, weed beds and beneath overhanging willows - where it can be tricky to get your lure, bait or fly.

Evenings are often good times to fish ponds because fish will be rising.

Ponds are unique fish habitats that tend to come alive in the spring, then go dormant during the heat of summer.

Aquatic weed growth can be an ongoing problem. One way Fish and Game combats it is by stocking grass carp, which eat weeds.

Although they look similar to common carp that are considered trash fish in most places, the grass carp are doing an important job in the ponds and are expensive to stock, Kozfkay said. Fish and Game wants to keep them there, so leave the archery gear at home and if you happen to hook one, let it go.

With 35 ponds in the Valley to choose from, there's a lot of variety. Here are some "destination" ponds worth checking out.

VETERANS PARK POND

Launch a float tube on this pond and you will soon forget you're in the middle of Idaho's largest city.

The 16-acre pond is deep and surrounded by steep banks and tall trees. The Greenbelt is on the south shore and Veterans Park on the north, so it's not exactly a place for solitude.

But it's still an easy getaway for some fishing or just hanging out.

When temperatures warm up, it's also a popular swimming hole.

Its depth makes it a tricky spot to fish because the fish have a lot of places to hide. But it's also been known to produce some large bass.

Although it's big enough for canoes and kayaks, access is a little tricky because you have to walk a ways to get to the water, so there are better places to take boats.

There's a fishing dock on the east end of the pond that's right off the Greenbelt, but the dock is about a half-mile from the nearest parking lot.

Getting there: It's near the corner of Veterans Memorial Parkway and State Street. The parking lot closest to the river is the best access to the pond.

EAGLE ISLAND POND

Most ponds don't have a water slide nearby, which makes this pond unique in the Valley. A little trivia for you - if you see it from the air, the pond is shaped just like a snake. (Check it out on Google Earth.)

The pond provides a lot of fishy habitat with willows and trees along the shoreline, an island, and lots of logs and branches in the water.

The pond has trout, bass and bluegill. Because it's in a state park, there's an entrance fee, but it has restrooms, walking paths, lots of picnic benches and other facilities.

Parts of the pond are easily accessible for wheelchairs.

Spring is the best time to be there. In summer the park gets a lot more crowded.

Getting there: Eagle Island State Park is on Hatchery Drive east of Linder Road between Idaho 44 and East Chinden Boulevard.

ILL POND AT HORSESHOE BEND

This 12-acre pond is near the Payette River north of Horseshoe Bend.

It's one of the more developed ponds and has an outhouse and picnic area, so, no surprise, it's a good place for a short road trip and fishing picnic and easy for wheelchairs.

It's also large enough that you could take a canoe, kayak or float tube to fish there.

This pond has a reputation for being a hot spot for bluegill, and that means practically nonstop action when they're biting.

Head out there this month or in May and there's a good chance you'll hit prime bluegill fishing. It's a great opportunity to introduce kids to fishing.

Getting there: Take Idaho 55 north of Horseshoe Bend and look for the pond on the right before you go over the bridge across the Payette River.

SAWYERS POND

At 35 acres, this pond near Emmett is big enough that it looks more like a lake. It even has a boat launch and wheelchair access.

It's located in a rural area outside Emmett, and rumor has it there are bass there large enough to eat the rainbow trout that are stocked. You may also catch a catfish there, so if you're up to the challenge, go for one of those "trophy" pond fish. You're likely to find bluegill, too.

This a good place to bring a small boat. If the fishing isn't happening, just paddle around the pond and check things out. There's a lot worse ways to spend an afternoon or evening.

Getting there: Go west of Emmett on Idaho 52. Turn left onto Mill Road near milepost 30 and travel .07 miles to Sales Yard Road. Turn right and follow Sales Yard for two-tenths of a mile.

DUFF LANE POND

Considering its close proximity to Idaho 44 and Middleton, and that there are homes close by, this pond seems a lot more remote than it is.

The pond is completely surrounded by trees, which makes you feel like you're farther away from civilization.

It had an aquatic weed problem, but it was treated three years ago and grass carp were added to keep it under control.

So you kind of get the best of both worlds: an uncrowded pond that's not too far from Middleton if you decide to take a break and grab something to eat.

It has a fishing dock for easy access, and there's some shoreline fishing as well, where you can get through the trees and brush.

Getting there: Go south on Duff Lane off Idaho 44 east of Middleton.

HALVERSON LAKE

While technically not a pond, it feels like one, so it's a little different from the others.

It's located near the Snake River in the canyon upstream from Celebration Park.

You have to hike about a mile to get there, but it's an easy walk on a well-worn path. You can fairly easily carry a float tube into the lake, and there are lots of places for shore fishing as well.

The lake has bluegill and bass, but the bass tend to be small. It's in a unique area along the Snake River. Along the trail you will see water-polished basalt boulders that were deposited during the Bonneville Flood 15,000 years ago and show where the river flowed.

The lake was formed by a natural depression that collected rain water. It also is fed by irrigation runoff from the agriculture fields above the canyon rim.

Getting there: Go to Celebration Park south of Nampa. Drive upstream to the parking area and look for signs to the lake.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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