Traditionally the term “Farm Pond” means a little fishing hole where the farmer spent his leisure hours drowning worms beneath a bobber. Recently I heard somebody use the term in a different way, and I’m inclined to agree. This new definition uses the word the same way Major League Baseball uses the term, as in “farm team” or “farm system” i.e. a place where a novice goes to hone his skills before he hits the big leagues.
Lake Erie is definitely the big leagues, and when charter boat Captain Tony Denslow wrote this page 20-30 years ago, I thought of him as being in a completely different league than I. Lake Erie can be a perilous place, but that’s where the big ones are. You’re not likely to catch a 27 inch walleye in Oberlin Reservoir (although I’ve seen some impressive Saugeye come out of there). Lake Erie is the fishing equivalent of going on a big game safari in Africa, and we take it for granted that it’s so accessible to us. Still, not every Saturday leaves enough free time to get out on the big water, and I’ve spent many a weekday night tossing spinners and top water plugs at bass that are just as challenging in the little parks near Grafton or Lagrange as they are in the hotspots of the central and western basin.
In my time I’ve thrown spoons at Dolly Varden in the MacKenzie, dropped Damsel flies and Wooly Buggers on the best streams of Wyoming and Montana, lost more shrimp than a Red Lobster waitress in Florida’s coastal surf, teased stripers on Lake of the Ozarks, and pulled spinners past trout from Ontario to B.C., and I wouldn’t know how to do any of those big-time tricks if I hadn’t cast a million lines over the lily pads and cat tails at the Duck Pond on Nickel Plate Diagonal Road as a kid. The fact is that great anglers aren’t made on the big water, they’re made on farm ponds.
When I was a kid, you didn’t see many people fishing the Black River. A century of industrial contamination made the fish inedible, and an expose’ in Newsweek made standing in the water questionable. The eating advisories still exist, but for those who have gotten over their fears of the environmental boogie-man (and most sportsmen are largely catch & release guys anyway) the Black River offers a lot of fun right in the middle of town. Probably the most maligned sport fish is the carp, but until you’ve pulled one in on a fly line or light tackle, don’t judge. Try pink or purple streamers this time of year, the bigger the better.
Lorain County Metroparks Duck Pond- Bluegill, bluegill and more bluegill! If you just want to have fun catching light tackle fish that like to fight, this is the place. I can’t count how many times I’ve caught 30 sunfish (and the occasional bass) here. Clear shores, high banks, and easy access, this isn’t just a “farm” pond, it’s the batting cage for fishing!
Spencer Lake Wildlife Area - Actually two lakes, and a terrific place to get practice with your small boat. Man-made lakes with lots of stumps and cover offer you some challenges that will pay off in bass and crappie. However, if you just want to light the Coleman lantern, rig up a chicken liver and go for catfish all night, it’s a fine place for that too. Wheelchair accessible with two nice docks and lots of shoreline to give you a variety of casting presentations.
Wellington Upland Reservation- This place is like a secret, practically. Lots of shoreline, several docks, and free paddle boats! One of the naturalists tells me when they did an electro-fishing survey, lots of bass up to FIVE pounds were found!
Vermillion River- This is an excellent place to play in the big leagues close to home. Lorain County sits at the apex of Steelhead Alley, and the Vermillion is visited by serious steelhead pros from around the world. With public access from Lorain County Metroparks Mill Hollow/Bacon Woods Reservation, this is a great place to get the feel of casting on a big river, with big rewards. In season you may find it very crowded, this is the real thing, but it’s a great place to learn the ropes. Get Outdoors!