Building and stocking own lake makes fishing personal

My father likes to tell the story of how hard it was to force me to stop fishing and come for dinner when I was a boy. From the time I was six or seven, I would walk across the street to fish from a small dock for bluegills or whatever else might take my worm. I could sit for hours, catching little fish after little fish, always with the hope of something bigger coming along. Fast forward forty years, and now all I must do is walk out my door to sit on the dock in my own backyard. 

I’ve been in the construction process for a little over a year. Building a new home, especially in today’s inflated market, is tough. Everything costs more than you expect it should. Some of the labor force I’ve experienced has left me far more than concerned. If we don’t make a big societal push to return young people to the trades soon, we’re going to be in big trouble. While struggling through this experience, the bright spot has been the construction of my 3-acre lake. I don’t have a name for it yet, but I expect it’ll come to me in time. 

Farm ponds have always been a favorite place to fish for me. I’ve more than once been accused of not liking to fish. It’s been said I like to catch, and the fishing gets in the way. There’s a deeper metaphor hiding in there somewhere, but it is true to a point. I like action, and for catching a lot of fish, it’s generally hard to beat a pond. 

When I bought my new property, it had two small, manmade ponds that were separated by a small levee. They were marshy messes, but home to birds, snakes, turtles, frogs, wood ducks, and more. Deer came to drink from them and so did many other critters. When I decided I was going to drain the water to be able to move the dirt, I felt bad about the displacement that was about to happen, but made a promise to the wildlife that I’d replace what had been there with something better. I know that is relative, but all are welcome in the new water. 

It took a lot of work with heavy equipment to deconstruct the two existing ponds. A giant dump truck carried load after load of dirt out of the depressions and to the back of my property where it was dumped and spread to fill in ravines carved after decades of erosion from runoff. Across the landscape, I was making improvement, while keeping in mind, sometimes you have to make a mess before you can clean things up.

As my earth work crew continued to dig and shape, and move and spread dirt, I would come to the bank each evening to visualize what the future of the water would look like. Upon completion of the job, one with which I am very pleased, they marked where the water will reach. It may be hard for some to see what the lake will look like at that level, but it’s clear to me, clear as Ozark stream water.

I have gone ahead and built a dock. It’s not much bigger than the one I used to sit on all those years ago as a boy. There will be a bench at the end, and God willing there will be plenty of people, both young and old, who sit there, starring at bobber waiting for it to dance. When it does, the pull of the line will connect right to the muscles that cause smiles. It’s a dream come true to know I’ll be providing a place where one can sit and fish and let the worries of life fade away.

I already do it. Whenever I find myself upset with the cost of the latest invoice, or the lackluster approach to the job I just paid for, I know it’ll all be ok, because at the end of the day, I’ll go sit on my dock and stare at my lake. I’ll be looking for the turtles to return and listening for the bullfrogs bellowing. I’ll be ecstatic the first time I hear the whistling of woody wings overhead, in hopes they find comfort in the boxes I’ve built for them, and I’ll be hoping the fish are growing big. 

This past week, with the lake about one-third full, I stocked my first 1,000 fish. I added 500 bluegill, 250 redear sunfish, and 250 yellow perch. The latter being an absolute favorite of mine. When it comes to table fare, you can’t convince me anything coming from freshwater tastes better than a yellow perch. I also added 10 pounds of minnows. I’ll repeat this same stocking two more times before adding largemouth bass this time next year. 

Having my own little lake isn’t something I could have even imagined when I was sitting on that dock in northwest Indiana all those years ago. I honestly don’t know if I ever really considered something so special until I bought this land. But now that I do, I’m going to do everything I can to make it as good a fishing hole as possible. And I’ll pray it leaves at least one little boy or girl with a passion for fishing they otherwise might have never developed.

See you down the trail….
Brandon Butler

Pic: Stocking fish like these little yellow perch into a private lake or pond is an investment in the future. 

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