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According to “Webster’s New World College Dictionary Fourth Edition,” which purports to be “defining the English Language for the 21st Century,” a pond is “an impounded body of water smaller than a lake.”

The same dictionary defines a lake as “a body of water larger than a pond.”

The university from which I obtained my degree is far better known for its engineers and veterinarians than its outdoor writers, but I still remember my professors insisting that circular logic was unacceptable.

According to no less an authority than yours truly, a pond is a body of water large enough to support game fish but small enough to be fished effectively from the bank. If you insist on something more specific, any body of still water from half an acre up to somewhere around 10 to 15 acres qualifies as a pond.

I spent a morning last spring walking the banks of a pond so small I could cast a one-sixteenth-ounce inline spinnerbait more than halfway across it. I ended the two-hour outing having landed 10 largemouth bass, measuring between 10 and 16 inches, and two big crappie. Three of the smaller bass and two crappie graciously accepted invitations to accompany me home for supper.

I’m not the least bit ashamed to admit that catching lots of fish is the No. 1 reason I’m so fond of ponds. I’ve had less productive times on mini-waters than the one I just described, make no mistake about that, but I’ve also had a lot of days that were even better. I can’t say that about any other type of water.

There’s a practical reason why ponds have so much potential, namely the fact a pond’s fish are concentrated into a small area. This means that an angler can be confident his lure is passing over, or at least close to, a fish on every cast.

Overconfidence can ruin what might have been a good day. As any experienced angler can attest, the fact that a lure passes within inches of a fish’s mouth doesn’t necessarily equal a strike.

Pond-dwelling bass, crappie, bluegill and catfish can be every bit as persnickety as their big-water cousins. I can’t count the times it’s taken me longer to find a lure the fish would hit than it did to catch all the fish I wanted afterward.

Another thing I love about fishing ponds is its relative simplicity. My typical pond fishing tackle consists of one light-action spinning outfit spooled with 6- or 8-pound line and one fly-fishing outfit.

My tackle box is a compact soft-sided satchel with a shoulder strap. Insert boxes hold a limited, but carefully chosen, selection of flies, jigs, soft plastic grubs, Roadrunners, tiny crankbaits, a top-water or two and inline spinnerbaits. Outer pockets provide enough room for bobbers, hooks and sinkers.

Gaining access is one potential downside to pond fishing. I’m lucky that I have several friends who own ponds.

I’m not bashful about knocking on a stranger’s door to ask permission to fish his pond. There are times the answer is “no,” but many pond owners now understand that regular fishing pressure is the only way to maintain a quality pond fishery. They just want to know who’s on their property, which seems reasonable to me.

A surprising number of great ponds are located on public land. Although there are certainly exceptions, the Missouri Department of Conservation manages the fisheries in most of the ponds owned by municipalities or other governmental entities in addition to the hundreds of ponds located on its own properties.

Nobody could pry my print copy of the MDC’s “Conservation Atlas” out of my hands, but the online version on the agency’s website is a faster way to get general information, because it’s possible to search for an individual feature–in this case fishing ponds–within a single county, a region or the entire state.

The MDC also publishes an annual “Fishing Prospects” brochure that provides more detailed information on the current potential of dozens of ponds, lakes and streams.

Whether the pond you choose to visit is on public or private property, please remember the back country adage, “leave nothing but footprints.”

Leaving litter on the banks of a private pond is the surest way I know to make that pond off limits to all fishermen. Littering public property not only makes the next person’s visit less satisfying, but cleaning up trash also diverts funds and manpower that otherwise would be used to make the property even more inviting.

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