Wet a line this summer │ Rip’n lips the Hard Core way By Chris McLeland, HardCore-Brands.com Contributor One of the saddest days in a waterfowl hunter’s life has to be the end of the duck hunting season. There is no filling the void that the last day of the duck hunting season brings, that is of course until the opening day rolls back again! Of course, with the spring come the thoughts of turkey season. Gobbles continue to fill our dreams until opening day finally gets here. For several weeks we have forgotten the empty void that the closure of the waterfowl season has left us with, and temporarily filled it the strutting long beards, and 3 ½” magnums. Eventually, much like waterfowl season the last day of turkey season comes and goes. Well, then what? Well, as we have said many times before, you simply grab another gear and keep on trucking! With the temperatures slowly making their way up past the 90 degree mark here in the Midwest, the feelings of a cold northwest wind and duck hunting on the wing can seem like a million years away, but for those of us with “Hard Core” running through our veins, simply add a cooler iced down with your refreshment of choice, summer blue water, and you have yourself a recipe for a good time! For us here at Hard Core, we truly believe in wetting a line every chance you can get, and we don’t always mean duck decoys either. Whether it’s a lake, farm pond, river or stream, summer time fishing can be an absolute blast and just what a Hard Core duck hunter needs to help pass the time to the opening day of waterfowl season. If you are like us, its “go big or go home”! One of the most overlooked and underrated locations to find yourself locked up in a tug of war match with a big largemouth bass are farm ponds. There are many benefits to fishing farm ponds. First off, they are abundant. If you really pay attention, you might be surprised on just how many farm ponds exist within a section of land. Most of these ponds will have fish in them. Granted, there will always be those that simply turn out to be water locations for livestock but in many cases whether they were stocked by the local fish and wildlife agency or the neighbor down the road, many will have the “big three”: bass, bluegill and catfish. Many of these ponds will receive very little pressure, especially those that are cannot see from the road. Don’t be afraid to take advantage of technology such as google maps to help you locate these little hidden “hog ponds”. Where there is little pressure, typically there are large fish. These hard to reach areas can almost always produce large bass or bluegill and in some cases, something completely unexpected such as large crappie! Lastly, it can be surprisingly easy to gain access to fish these areas, especially if you are planning to catch and release. Many landowners are open to the idea of allowing fishing and honestly, you might be surprised by how infrequent they are approached about fishing. Gaining fishing access can be a great way to begin to build a relationship with a landowner. In many cases, landowners who have given you the big “NO” when asked about chasing ducks or geese are more open to fishing. Once you have built a rapport with the landowner, that “NO” can quickly change to a “YES”. Just remember, that trust is critical when gaining access whether it’s for fishing or waterfowl hunting. Always follow the landowner’s rules and treat their property as if it was your own. Following the rules may not always make things easy on the hunter, but it’s worth it in the long run. Over the years of passing the days away until waterfowl season by chasing “hog fish” around you begin to notice that some ponds may have large bass, and nothing else while others may have the biggest bluegill you have ever encountered but the bass are tiny. If you have encountered similar circumstance and wondered the same thing, it can be explained by one word “balance”. Ponds and the fish that live in them are much like weights on a scale. When you remove too much or too little of one thing, it affects the scale and can tilt the scale one way or another. In many cases ponds are skewed by overharvest of one species or another. This can be overharvest by anglers or a predator such as snapping turtles or otters. In most cases, ponds tend to be overstocked and the primary species that tend to be overstocked tend to be largemouth bass. This is not always the case, but it tends to be the norm. If you encounter this situation the next you are out chasing lunkers in the farm pond, you can simply adjust the balance of the pond by installing what is known as a “slot-limit”. What a slot limit is, is a threshold in which you determine whether to harvest or release. In this particular example, if you have too many bass, then you might utilize a 12-15” slot limit on bass. This means that anything under 12” you will keep. Anything over 15” you can also choose to keep. Anything between 12-15” you will release. This will help you remove the “excess fish” from the pond and help to increase the size and quality of the bass in the pond. While duck hunting and waterfowl are the name the game, there are always 12 months in a year, and it just wanted by like use Hard Core watefowlers to neglect an opportunity to spend some time outdoors, enjoying what nature has provided us. So, after the duck decoys have been cleaned for the year, grab your favorite Hard Core shirt or hat and tackle and get to fishing, it will help to ease the pain until waterfowl season comes again!