Calaveras Enterprise

Nothing beats a cool pond in the spring

Erica Heinselman reels in a nice bluegill on her first cast into a private pond off Highway 88.Photos by William Heinselman

Erica Heinselman reels in a nice bluegill on her first cast into a private pond off Highway 88.Photos by William Heinselman

Pond fishing is the high-octane side of angling. Throughout much of my life, I have been blessed with a few opportunities to fish at private ponds. My experiences at each pond all warrant five stars.

You know what’s cool about pond fishing? It’s the “high odds for me” kind of fishing. It’s the chance to see a whopper up close and personal.

“It’s a Huckleberry Finn/Tom Sawyer experience,” said Jennifer Zanetta, who owns a nice pond off Highway 88 that my wife Erica and I got to fish at recently.

Folks, ponds are teaming with wonders; communities of life above and below the water, and nature’s magic works to spark any child’s enchantment, including my own.

Erica and I pulled up the drive onto Steven and Jennifer Zanetta’s property. We first noticed the pond as we traveled along the drive toward the house. We parked near the pond, as suggested by Jennifer over the phone two days before. As I unloaded the gear, my wife’s eyes were focused on the inviting dock anchored in one corner of the pond. Almost immediately, Jennifer walked down her drive to meet us. A lovely person, Jennifer asked, “Mind if I join you?”

Chunky bluegills make for a fine dinner after a relaxing morning of fishing.

Chunky bluegills make for a fine dinner after a relaxing morning of fishing.

“Heck no,” we both naturally responded. All three of us were soon fishing from the dock that’s wide enough to offer plenty of room.

And so it began; three kids fishing for bluegill. My wife and I were laughing and Jennifer was quite content, too. She treated us as welcome guests as she shared a bit of her family history, making us feel important to her. She was fun to be around and she knew how to fish her pond. Jennifer enjoyed the fact we were fishing for bluegill and taking our catch home to make a few dinners. Erica loves to prepare and dine on bluegill, which made this opportunity very special for us.

Wanting her koi fish in the pond to have a better chance of producing fingerlings, Jennifer wanted to reduce the number of bluegill that otherwise would eat the eggs of the unhatched koi. Her son and a buddy of mine at work, Jake Zanetta, showed me a photo of his children’s recent bluegill catch. I noticed they were good-size fish and I spoke up to Jake, “Erica and I love bluegill.” Knowing it was alright for my wife and I as guests to fish the family pond, Jake first called his mom and later confirmed the invite by giving me her number.



I brought three preset rods, some tackle and miniature night crawlers for bait and a small 1-gallon ice chest to hold our catch. Two of my ultralight rods were set up with size-10 bait hooks for the crawlers. My third rod had a small size-18 bluegill fly tied to 4-pound test line 4-feet under a clear casting bubble anchored with an eighth-ounce split-shot sinker. To my disappointment, the fly would not sink, but before I adjusted it, I needed to get a worm out there in the water. I quickly added the worm to the hook of my other rod. Strike! Strike!

My first two casts caught two-chunky bluegill. Meanwhile, the girls were having a blast. Jennifer was simply baiting her hook with a single salmon egg for the bluegill. At one point Jennifer got curious about the worm bait and I baited all three of our poles with a half a worm each. The action for the girls exploded and I seemed to be netting bluegill and baiting hooks for over an hour. Soon, I realized my ice chest was too small to handle all the bluegill, and Jennifer let us borrow a large ice chest. Together we caught 30 bluegill, all of good size, and Erica hooked into a 2-pound bass, but she lost it at the dock. All the fish were strong-fighting and healthy.

Pond fishing is very special fishing, and I would like to thank Steven and Jennifer for our adventure and for a few delicious meals.

Tip of the week – Ponds are at their healthiest in the early spring. Never fish a private pond without getting the owner’s permission first. When fishing for bass in a pond, try top-water plugs in the early morning and later evening. Plastic worms crawled along the bottom of the pond are another effective bass technique during the day. Live baits like minnows, crickets, grasshoppers and worms usually work for all the fish species that might live in a pond.

On the water:

With the rain, Pardee Reservoir and Lake Amador both spilled recently.

Lunker bass to 12 pounds continue to make the headlines from all of our Mother Lode lakes. At this time, largemouth, spotted and smallmouth bass are shallow and in all three phases of their spawn: pre-spawn, on beds and post-spawn. Try small swimbaits, spinnerbaits and crankbaits to catch fish in all three phases. Constant teasing of a bedded bass will get her to take the lure as she believes it’s a threat to her eggs. Plastic Senkos worked slowly both wacky style and weedless can also be successful. Be sure to practice catch-and-release during the spring months so the bass populations remain healthy.

Don Pedro – Trolling needlefish, speedy shiners or night crawlers behind flashers is catching small trout in the main lake and the Tuolumne River arm. Bank-fish with PowerBait in the Moccasin and Fleming Meadows recreation areas and the Tuolumne River arm. I’ve heard no reports on king salmon yet.

New Melones – Trout fishing is slow with an occasional fish reported to 4 pounds. Troll the creek arms. Bank fish with PowerBait or a night crawler under the Stevenot Bridge, at Glory Hole Point and in Angels Cove.

Pardee – Weekly trout plants keep the recreation area producing when fished with PowerBait. Trolling the Mokelumne River arm is a good bet with curl-tail grubs or a single night crawler. A few kokanee have been reported at 40-feet deep; tip your hook with shoepeg corn for the kokanee.

New Hogan – The striper are slowly picking up for trollers who pull rolled shad or anchovies between 14 and 30 feet.

Camanche – Weekly trout plants at the South Shore Trout Pond and the north and south shore launches keep anglers catching fish to 7 pounds. Crappie are always in the mix for trollers and bank anglers.

Amador – There are lots of trout here. Plants of Mount Lassen trout include the lightning trout. Troll the main lake and the creek arms for the best action. Bank anglers favor the dam to the spillway with PowerBaits and small spoons.

Contact William Heinselman at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *