“Another one!” Eli announced with a grin as he pulled yet another bluegill from of the pond. I hadn’t finished rebaiting my own hook, but I sure didn’t mind.
I’d chosen the Family Fishing Pond at the Lake Burton Fish Hatchery so my 9-year-old son could enjoy fast fishing action, and he was doing just that. I scurried to where he was standing to get a picture of his fish and to be there in case he needed help unhooking it.
The Family Fishing Pond, which is on the hatchery property, has provided fun days for five of my six children. Holly, my 6-year-old, will get her turn soon – maybe before the end of summer. The pond has cleared, mowed banks for simple access and holds plenty of channel catfish, bullheads and bluegills. The fish aren’t big, but they are unfailingly cooperative.
I keep the fishing super simple, using light rods and reels, with each line rigged with just a split shot or two and a small hook baited with a little piece of hot dog or a bread ball. We pick a spot on the bank, cast the lines, let the rigs find bottom and wait for the line to take off. The simplicity of the technique allows little ones to do everything on their own.
A hatchery worker told me years ago that hot dog pieces are tough to top for the cats in that pond, and I’ve yet to find anything better. A No. 4 or 6 hook will work for the cats and will also hook some bluegills. To target the bluegills, which have become much more plentiful in the past couple of years, I go with a little smaller hook (No. 8 or 10) and a tiny breadball put right on the hook point. Either way, I like long-shank hooks because they are better for unhooking fish.
Worms also work well for catfish or bluegills, and digging for worms at home adds fun and ownership to the whole experience, so we’ll often bring a cup of freshly dug worms in addition to the fridge bait.
We always release our fish at this pond, but you’re allowed to keep four fish per angler. Facilities also include a nice little pavilion, so you might want to bring a picnic lunch. Also, if the hatchery is open (8-6 daily), be certain to take time to go peek in the raceways. There isn’t a young angler in the world who doesn’t enjoy seeing thousands of trout in all different stages of development. Also, don’t miss the big trout that are on display in one of the rear-left raceways!
The hatchery and pond are right across the creek from Moccasin Creek State Park, which is handy because the park offers additional fishing opportunities, including trout-stocked Moccasin Creek for anglers 11 and younger, and bank access for bigger (but fussier) bluegills, largemouth and spotted bass and an occasional big brown trout at the mouth of the creek and around the Lake Burton cove it feeds.
Finally, the park has a nice playground, and for the age of anglers the Family Fishing Pond is really best suited for, a round of swinging, spinning and sliding after fishing is icing on the cupcake!