Hedden Park Lake is Good for Bass
Small waters like three-acre Hedden Park Lake may be deceiving since lakes, obviously, contain more fish by sheer volume. The by-word to describe ponds and small streams is “overlooked,” and this state of affairs is as eternal as death and taxes. Plenty of anglers graduate to expensive boats and famous lakes, never looking back, and looking away when they happen to drive past a pond or over a small bridge. But I think of Ernest Hemingway in Key West, pursuing marlin with manic persistence for periods lasting months—then suddenly needing to go fish from one of the many Keys bridges for snappers and grunts alone.
Hedden County Park shadows Dover in Randolph Township a couple of turns off Route 46, but the best access to the pond is from the back of the park, directions easily accessed online. If you like the manicured ease of a county park, it’s a good place for young families or a picnic, but serious anglers have no need to feel out of place. Just focus on catching some of the many bass, and smile and wave if anyone takes interest when you do. It’s a place I have visited for no more than an hour at a time, but I once caught close to a dozen bass, gingerly unhooked and released.
The truth about New Jersey largemouth bass fishing is that many ponds will yield more bass in less time than any other type of water. A private pond I have access to often yields about 10 bass—on average between a pound-and-a-half and two-and-a-half pounds—in a half hour’s fishing. I would get tired of any more.
Ponds fish easier than lakes, which is why I fish lakes often. But I have a need to scale way back—bring a single rod and a single lure—and simply catch a fresh zing of pure action.
Hedden Park Lake typically can produce bass any time of day. The dog day dictum against bass hitting in 95-degree afternoon heat may spare anglers who prefer an air conditioned room, but fish a weightless plastic worm like a slow-sinking Chompers or Culprit to prove opinion wrong. I don’t recommend fast-sinking Senkos except to get casting reach (they are heavier). You need to make the plastic seem very lazily lifelike. A Senko makes for the bottom fast by comparison to other plastics.
I once walked to the edge of the pond shortly after noontime in a blaze of summer sun to see bass everywhere. The perfectly calm surface invited them to slowly cruise inches to a foot deep in full view. This happens in ponds frequently. Pay attention and you may discover that the bass are interested in the damselflies alighting on any vegetation or sticks that break the surface. I once directly watched a bass score. An amazing sight, the bass leapt in front of me, mouth wide, engulfed a damselfly and dove under.
Sight fishing with plastic worms of four to seven-inches will occupy you with complicated moves. To try and get these stubborn, heat-phased bass to take the worm is not as simple as just casting to those you see. It’s better than a screen game because you really do slip into what you are—a mortal being requiring food. That the bass is released doesn’t matter. The experience of being part of reality involving relations does. This makes you feel at home in the world just by fishing. Releasing the bass makes you master because you are not bound to the need to actually take it as prey, although on seldom occasion I take a walleye or trout home from elsewhere in place of what my wife would have purchased at Shop Rite.
Speaking of trout, Jackson Creek flowing from pure springs and feeding Hedden Park Lake has native brook trout.