Some of the best fishing might be in our own neighborhoods. As I drive around the state, I am reminded of just how many lakes and ponds there are nearly around every corner. I know that some of these lakes are good fisheries that are in many cases greatly under-fished.

Such lakes might be predominately on private lands or within limited-access communities, but there are also lots of smaller lakes scattered around that are public. Some are city, county or state controlled, so a search of the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Web site (www.mdwfp.com) should reveal some options available for the public to fish.

 

Private venue access

"I can understand the hesitation of some folks rolling up into a private neighborhood to ask somebody about fishing their lake," said Ben Harper of Vicksburg. "Most people just assume that outsiders are not welcomed, but that is not always the case. A ride through a neighborhood might find somebody working in their yard to ask. The trick is to be respectful and act accordingly.

"I always ask people I know at school or church to see if there are places I can go fishing where I will not disturb anybody. I like fishing alone or with one friend, and prefer to go about it in a low-profile mode. I definitely do not just bust up into somebody's lake without getting permission."

Harper said one approach that works best is to find out where friends or relatives live that might have a pond or lake on their property.

"A lot of times this is a dead end, but sometimes I hit on a really good little place to fish," he said. "I don't need a boat; if I'm going for bass, all I need is a couple rods and a tackle box.

"Oh, yeah, I always wear some knee-high boots."

The more you ask around, the more likely you are to find places to fish.

 

Navigating small lakes

The first thing to do when walking up to a new lake or pond to fish for the first time is to make a visual survey of the layout. Look the whole span of water over and determine where you can cast a bait. If you have a small, portable watercraft like a canoe or kayak, this is even easier.

What you're looking for is obvious fishing structure. Is there a blown-down tree lying over in the water? Is there a dam with grass and reeds grown up in one corner? Can you see stumps or old tree trunks protruding up from the surface of the water? Is there a grassy flat with tops swaying in the wind? These would be good places to start fishing.

Small-lake anglers can take the same type of approach if all they can do is just fish from the bank. Some even pack along a set of chest waders. This provides an additional option to fish the lake, but proceed slowly if you don't know what the terrain is like under the water. Water safety is imperative regardless of the size of lake being fished.

 

Small lake-small tactics

I guess all this speed fishing started with the bass tournaments where anglers figure they have to cover 100 miles of shoreline in two hours. This is not the approach to take on small neighborhood lakes.

Low visibility, less noise, slow movements and methodical fishing strategies are what work on small waters.

If ever there was a time to be patient, it is working over a small lake or pond. The whole point of the adventure is to enjoy your time on the water and the fishing challenges, so why rush it? More than likely, the best tactic is to repeatedly fish the same spots several times - especially if some of them are particularly productive.

So approach each potential fishing location slowly. If there is a fallen tree and you're after white perch, then using an extended, long-reach pole, drop a minnow or jig down into the water on both sides of every limb. You want the fish to see the bait, and it might only be a foot away from the fish. Placing the bait all around the tree is the best way to draw the attention to a hungry crappie.

Likewise, if you are fishing for bass, get in tight to the cover and cast several times in the same area. Try different retrieve rates, do some jerking, make surface noise with a spinner or surface lure. Alternate lure types back and forth.

Watch for shoreline cover over your head as you cast.

Anglers should find fishing small neighborhood lakes a sheer pleasure. The payoff can be an extremely relaxed way to get back to fishing basics.

So keep asking around until you secure some places to fish - that great little lake might just be in the neighborhood next to where you live now.