Small Waters Strategies – Quarries & Draw Pits

Small Waters Strategies – Quarries & Draw Pits

Aug 20, 2012

Crack the code on quarries and draw pits

By Mike Pehanich

Quarries and draw pits are some of the most overlooked fisheries in the country.


Even when you find them, they can be hard to access.  At times, they can be hard to fish, too.

Shoreline trees and darker water are signs of a mature and fertile quarry.

But hold fish, they do! And many such waters produce big fish, too!

Quarry waters are the cavities that fill with water after a rock mining operation.

Draw pits are those little lakes you commonly see along major highways. Road construction operations extract earthen material for bridges, road construction and related needs. The leftover holes fill with water. Most draw pits are on the property of private landowners, but many are formally or informally open to anglers

Communities and county districts often purchase surrounding lands to create public parks around these often-scenic waters. Some become pay-to-fish waters that depend on intelligent management practices to maintain quality fishing.

Focus on fertile pits

Quarries and draw pits may take time — or a little help from man — to reach their fish-producing peak, however.

Most start out clear and infertile until various life forms take hold and help form a viable food chain.

ESPN sports writer Mike Huang joined Mike Pehanich to fish several mature quarries, and they were rewarded handsomely for their effort.

If you have a hand or influence over the management practices of the pit, consider fertilizing the lake regularly — but carefully — to increase the lake’s fish-pound-per-acre capacity. Effective fertilization could increase its fish output three to eight times!

But Nature can take care of the job on her own, too, though she usually moves at a far more leisurely pace.

Extreme water clarity and relatively bare banks are almost sure signs of young and probably infertile pits. As waters gain fertility, you will see either darker water or more aquatic plants – simple signs that the lake has the underpinnings of a productive food chain.

Don’t shy from clear water alone. These lakes are likely to remain clearer than your average farm pond even when their pounds-per-acre capacity has multiplied. Submerged vegetation may not be immediately visible either.

Unless the land/lake owner had the foresight to drop cover and create structure, the lake bottom may be relatively featureless. That will change somewhat – though not always dramatically — as the lake ages. Over time, banks erode to create points and flats. These become not only fundamental structural elements but areas where vegetation and cover can accumulate and create prime shelter and feeding areas.

Never ignore subtle points, corners, grass edges and pockets, which are prime locations to find bass and panfish. Look for drainpipes and runoff areas that may have created channels and ledges.

Don Dubin, inducted into the National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, studies a quarry lake in northern Illinois.

Emergent vegetation such as reeds, cattails and matted vegetation could play important seasonal roles, particularly in spring.

Also look for signs that fishermen have planted their own cover. A cast that snags up on a tree branch 30 feet from shore could be evidence of sunken brush that harbors bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish and almost any other species.

We’ll have more on how to read quarries and draw pits and specific techniques and presentations in upcoming SWF features and videos.

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