Anglers Journal - - CONTENTS - By GARY RE­ICH

You might call them farm ponds. In Texas, these dammed-up low spots re­plen­ished by rain to wa­ter live­stock are called stock tanks — and they pro­vide some mighty fine fish­ing.

A lone longhorn gazes out over a farm pond in Mans­field, Texas, as the sun bends lower in the late af­ter­noon sky. The smooth, wa­tery dim­ple in the land­scape re­flects the lush grass­land that sur­rounds it. Hug­ging the shore­line in a well­worn 12-foot alu­minum row­boat are Drew Perkins and his 87-year-old fa­ther, Al. The pair skill­fully sling float­ing Ra­palas and crank baits with ul­tra­light tackle to­ward the struc­ture­laden shore­line. In the wa­ter be­hind them trails a stringer loaded with the shiny, emer­ald-green large­mouth bass they’ve caught for the ta­ble.

This is stock-tank coun­try, a land­scape dot­ted with low spots dammed to store rain­wa­ter for live­stock. “Stock” refers to the live­stock the ponds sup­port, and “tank” de­notes the stor­a­geori­ented na­ture of these rel­a­tively small bod­ies of wa­ter. Although the Perkins fam­ily no longer raises cat­tle, they do main­tain a hand­ful of stock tanks for fish­ing. In fact, hun­dreds of these pri­vate stock tanks are pep­pered around the Texas coun­try­side, and fish­ing them is a pop­u­lar pas­time.

In the case of the Perkins fam­ily, each stock tank is loaded with a healthy pop­u­la­tion of crap­pie, large­mouth bass and cat­fish. Drew, who is in the struc­tural steel man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness, has been fish­ing stock tanks, lakes and ponds with his fa­ther since he was a boy.

“When I was a kid, we used to fish far­ther west where my grand­par­ents had a cabin on Pos­sum King­dom Lake,” he says. “We also fished Lake Ar­ling­ton quite a bit, but it’s all the same sort of fish­ing — ev­ery­thing from bob­bers and blood­worms to crank baits and plas­tic worms. It’s just a fam­ily pas­time we’ve al­ways en­joyed. I love it.”

To­day Drew has one stock tank on 15 acres of land, and his fa­ther main­tains three tanks on an ad­ja­cent stretch of 136 acres that he farms for hay. They buy fish from a lo­cal busi­ness. “A stock­ing truck reg­u­larly brings a wide va­ri­ety of pond species to the lo­cal farm sup­ply store,” Drew says. “We buy mainly large­mouth and chan­nel cats, but some­times we’ll add in some crap­pie and perch. We dump in about 350 at a time, de­pend­ing on the wa­ter level and how many we think are al­ready in there.”

Once the fish are in the tanks, they spawn nat­u­rally, about twice a year. And although min­nows and other bait­fish are some­times added to the tanks, Drew says fry from spawn­ing runs are prime tar­gets of the larger fish. “I open up the stom­achs of some of the large­mouth I catch to see what they’re eat­ing,” he says. “More of­ten than not, they’ve got smaller large­mouth bass in their gul­lets.”

The fa­ther-son duo has no­ticed a sur­pris­ing di­ver­sity in the species they get from the hatch­ery tankers over the years. “Last year we put a load of bass in the tank but soon no­ticed the new fish weren’t jumpers,” Drew says. “They put up a good fight, but they didn’t put on a show. I did some look­ing around on­line and fig­ured out they were a Ken­tucky species called spot­ted bass. We could iden­tify them by a small rough patch on the back of their tongues. We’ve also had Florida large­mouth bass in the tanks; those are the ones that like to get up on top and dance.”

Drew says the typ­i­cal large­mouth bass and chan­nel cats they catch and keep from the tanks are 3 to 5 pounds — and the hatch­ery fish can be just as chal­leng­ing to catch as wild fish. “Some­times we go out and catch a full stringer in an hour,” he says. “Other days we have to get tricky. There are other out­ings when we won’t catch a thing. Typ­i­cally we’re us­ing ul­tra­light tackle with Ra­palas or Road­run­ner crank baits. We don’t usu­ally use bait, but we’ve been toy­ing around with plas­tic worms some. My dad’s more of a crap­pie and cat­fish guy, so he rigs up his own spe­cial­ized tackle to catch those. The crap­pie are get­ting chal­leng­ing to catch, so maybe we’ll end up try­ing bait of some sort to catch more of them. Once we’ve got what we need, we take ’em home and clean them for sup­per.”

Be­cause the stock tanks are es­sen­tially dammed-up low spots that are re­plen­ished by rain­wa­ter (not nat­u­ral springs), droughts can be chal­leng­ing.

“Ev­ery­thing nearly dried up in 2014,” Drew says. “All but one pond dried com­pletely up, and there wasn’t much left in it, ei­ther. We’ve had good rains the last sea­son or two, so all of our stock tanks are nicely filled up, and we’ve stocked them with plenty of fish. I think now that we’ve got wa­ter back in them, we’d like to add more struc­ture. We’ll prob­a­bly start chuck­ing some branches and brush in there for the fish and give the small fish a bet­ter chance of sur­viv­ing. All in all, though, I think we’ve got a healthy ecosys­tem go­ing.”

Drew and his dad fish sev­eral times a month, some­times as of­ten as once a week, in this laid­back land­scape.

“I love fish­ing, and there’s noth­ing bet­ter than eat­ing fresh fish,” Drew says. “And, of course, I love spend­ing time with my dad. At my age not many peo­ple get to spend as much time with their dad as I do.”

Drew and Al Perkins main­tain sev­eral stock tanks for fish­ing. “I love fish­ing, and I love spend­ing time with my dad,” Drew says.

Coun­try com­forts: A large­mouth airs it out (left); there’s plenty of time to tie a proper knot.

The liv­ing is easy in Mans­field, Texas, where Drew Perkins and his fa­ther, Al, en­joy catch­ing a mess of bass from one of their ponds.

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