Story by Tom P

Hiding in plain sight!

What better way to describe the plethora of ponds and lakes situated in municipal and county parks. Add creeks that may be coursing through some of these properties and it’s easy to see that there is a rod-bending close-to-home cornucopia that can provide outstanding fishing.

Trouble is, the majority of these go begging to save for spring and fall when a few are stocked with trout. The largemouth bass, crappies, channel catfish, jumbo sunfish and huge carp remain ignored. Why? Mainly because the thought is that how could waters that are so close to populated areas possibly offer quality opportunities. These are oftentimes regarded as places where youngsters can catch sunnies and maybe bullheads…serious anglers need not apply.

What a mistake!

Think about it: the aforementioned species (excluding trout) are classified as “warm water” species; i.e. they live and thrive in a warm water. Literally, all urban and suburban and park ponds and lakes fall under this description as well. Said swims are generally loaded with a variety of calorie-rich forage like minnows, small sunfish, shiners, crayfish, frogs and aquatic nymphs. The bass and channel cats, in particular, get older and fatter as the seasons pass with only half-hearted efforts at best being made to catch them. Carp? This thinking man’s fish (and largest member of the minnow family) attains prodigious proportions feeding on subsurface vegetation, snails, worms, crays and just about anything it can inhale in its bugle maw. Carp to 20-plus pounds are by no means uncommon on these waters, with bass to 5-plus pounds and double digit weight channel kitties all but guaranteed…if you put in the time and learn the water.

While largemouth bass are no doubt the most sought after sweetwater gamefish in the Garden State, the channel catfish is the rising star of the urban and suburban swims. The Division of Fish & Wildlife’s Bureau of freshwater fisheries stocks 80-85 venues on a rotating basis statewide, with the majority of the kitties at the 12-inch minimum possession length, allowing for immediate harvest (the daily limit is 5). Every 2-3 years the releases are sweetened with whiskers up to 24 inches and 6-pounds. The eating machines acclimate immediately to their new environs and start growing…quickly.

Besides being the ideal places to introduce youngsters and/or anyone new to fishing, these waters provide what I refer to as “sortie” fishing, i.e. they offer quick shots before work or after work, in between errands or when it’s not possible to get to the more favored venues for the day. You’ll very surprised at the fishing that was hiding in plain sight.

Places to Fish: Hundreds of waters are wide open for sortie shots. Visit and click on the freshwater link. On this page, scroll down to the chart and click on Places to Fish. Here is a listing of waters north, central and south, many of which fall in the urban and suburban park lake and pond categories.

More From 105.7 The Hawk