By Bill Cooper
Every fisherman yearns to find a secret fishing spot, where he can catch lots of fish and not be bothered by other anglers. Such spots are few and far between these days. Too, most fishermen have a favorite buddy, with whom they share their favorite spot. Stories abound about the calamities of sharing a secret spot.
I’ve stumbled across many great fishing spots over the decades. Many I have returned to numerous times without ever encountering another fisherman. That is especially gratifying in the world of fishing, but it is a rare occurrence. Others I managed to keep to myself for several years, then another lucky fisherman would stumble upon the spot and burst my bubble.
Most of my secret fishing spots over the years have been located in rather remote areas, where access was difficult, or getting to them involved a long hike through rough country. Most anglers like convenience, thus the crowds on lakes, trout parks, and other easily accessible fishing areas.
Private properties are ideal. Many landowners have small lakes and ponds on their properties that are stocked with fish. Often families fish these waters for a number of years, then loose interest, or become too busy to fish. I’ve been fortunate to know enough people over the years that have allowed me to access their private waters. Most often I practice catch and release, but always ask the landowners if they would like to have a mess of fresh fish. I also clean the fish for them. The simple gesture is a sure fire way to be able to return to these ultimate secret fishing spots.
I have several secret fishing spots on private properties. Although I also have several good fishing buddies, seldom to I take any of them to my secret spots on private properties. However, should I take a buddy along, I always clear it with the landowner first.
Decades ago I took a fishing buddy to a private location and later found out that he had taken a couple of buddies to the spot without first asking the landowner. He promptly ended all fishing on his property, and rightfully so. Needless to say, I never shared another secret spot with that so called fishing buddy.
Public lands offer lots of opportunities to find hot fishing spots. A good internet search will provide more locations than one could visit in a lifetime. The only drawback is that others most likely will have found the same locations via the internet. Herein lies an opportunity to fine tune your secret spot list.
Even though a fishing location may be on public property, scouting and spending lots of time on the water will give the opportunity to find honey holes in out of the way places. I’ve found small coves that few people visit, where I can consistently catch fish. Exploring up a stream that enters a lake is another opportunity to find pockets which hold fish. Burning some shoe leather may be in order, but the hike adds to the adventure. City and counties often have undeveloped lands that contain ponds and lakes. Taking a look at their websites may reveal waters that seldom see a fisherman.
Over the years I’ve discovered dozens of fishing spots through internet searches that turned out to be great locations that saw little traffic. Public parks with ball fields and playgrounds are often high traffic areas, which most fishermen avoid. However, many contain small waters which are hidden away in wooded, or swampy areas that most people avoid. Such spots can offer terrific fishing. It is not uncommon for such spots to go for years without being fished. I’ve caught many good bass and giant bluegills in such locations over the years.
My favorite sights to research online include the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. These sites are especially helpful when I’m traveling out of state. There literally thousands of area where one can fish, many in relative solitude.
You may think you have exhausted your research efforts, but many new developments are coming down the pipeline. Studies over the last decade have indicated that many individuals have dried away from fishing because of lack of access to fishing areas. That problem is being remedied as many areas are opening up to the public. Dozens of National Wildlife Refuges opened areas to fishing in 2020 during the COVID 19 pandemic. The National Outdoor Recreation Roundtable has been working diligently to open access to fishing areas across the country. The resulting passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in 2020 is one of the grandest conservation funding policy in history. It will fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund at $900 million per year and provide $9.5 billion over 5 years to address backlogged maintenance issues in the nation’s national park system and other federal agencies. Funds will further be made available to state and local governments to acquire lands for outdoor recreation and conservation.
Funding is already trickling down to state agencies. Stay alert for announcements in newspapers and conservation related publications. Those who keep up with the news will be the first to discover new programs and areas, many of them related to fishing. You may be able to find that secret fishing spot, which you might want to share with your best fishing buddy.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bill Cooper is an award-winning outdoor writer and member of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame and lives in rural St. James. He is host of “Outside Again Adventures TV-Online” and “Wild at Heart” on ESPN 107.3FM in Rolla. You can follow Cooper at www.facebook.com/OutsideAlways, www.aoutdoorstv.com and www.espn1073.com.