An 'average' day on farm pond is productive

Wildside column: Southern Iowa ponds among best in state

Orlan Love of Quasqueton poses Monday with one of the two 5-pound largemouth bass he caught on almost back-to-back casts in a Keokuk County farm pond. (Tom Monroe/Sigourney)
Tom Monroe of Sigourney admires an “average” farm pond crappie during an outing Monday in Keokuk County. (Orlan Love/correspondent)

SIGOURNEY — Fishing farm ponds with Tom Monroe feels a little like cheating, but not so much that you can’t justify it.

While far from shooting fish in a barrel, fishing in a good pond has advantages over angling in lakes and streams — advantages Tom, a former member of the state Natural Resource Commission, says rank southern Iowa pond fishing as the state’s best.

Not the least of those advantages, of course, is the fishes’ confinement in a relatively small body of water.

Fishing often boils down to eliminating the 90 percent of the water in which fish don’t reside and concentrating on the other 10 percent. That’s a lot easier to do on a 2-acre pond than on a 30,000-acre Mississippi River pool.

Tom, a retired Sigourney merchant with a degree in fisheries biology, manages about 20 farm ponds in Keokuk County. With judicious stocking and harvests, as well as a catch-and-release ethic for big fish, he strives for a balance that yields strong populations of bass, bluegill and crappie, as well as numerous trophy specimens.

His regimen for fishery health was obviously working in both ponds we visited Monday afternoon.

At the first stop, a shallow pond of several acres, we fished from the comfort of his electric-trolling-motor-powered boat. We soon found concentrations of fish in the deeper water near the dam and in a shallow bay into which the south wind was blowing.

Tom alternated between an ultralight rod rigged with a light plastic-tipped jig, which he used to catch big crappies and bluegills, and a stiffer bass rod with which he wielded one of those old-fashioned plastic worms bristling with three built-in little hooks.

Having observed Tom hand-over-handing one big bluegill after another on his reel-less $2 ice fishing rods, I knew better than to critique his vintage tackle, which soon brought to the boat a succession of 4-pound largemouth bass.

After we’d hooked five of them and dozens of their younger relatives, Tom suggested we visit another pond in which, he knew for a fact, resided an 8-pounder with a keen appetite for plastic lures.

This pond was so small that every square inch of its surface was accessible to our lures as we strolled along its banks.

Though the queen lunker somehow eluded us, bass struck on nearly every cast, and we did during one 10-minute stretch land three 5-pounders.

Acknowledging that it was my best day on the water in 2017, I asked Tom how he would rate it.

“About average,” he said.