A pit by any other name.
How about South Vineland Park Pond? Or, because of its size, perhaps South Vineland Park Lake?
Officially known as the former, and referred to by a few angling acquaintances as the latter, the spring-fed 20-acre, 30- to 35-foot deep water body could theoretically fit the term “lake” as per the Garden State’s downsized still waters norm. No matter the moniker, this gin-clear swim, dug for gravel and sand way back when, offers prime opportunities for largemouth bass despite being basically featureless with little in the way of structure or weed growth. Rainbow trout are stocked three times during April (and once pre-season in late March; 1,570 total), and then again once during Thanksgiving Week (190 total). There are yellow perch and hefty sunfish to be caught as well.
Located in Anthony Campanelli Sr. Park off West Elmer Road in Vineland, the lake boasts a T-pier, a stone boat ramp and plenty of parking. Power is limited to electric only, and this is an ideal venue for a canoe or ‘yak attack. There is shoreline access around the majority of the lake. A high water warning comes with this – rain events have been known to raise water levels rapidly to the point where the banks and boat ramp are flooded, and the T-pier partially, and sometimes totally submerged. The bad with the good, if you will.
Despite its lack of visible and sunken structures, the venue is capable of producing more than a few hefty largemouth bass, some approaching double-digit weights. The operative word is “capable” as the water clarity here makes for wary, and then some, bass that grow fatter feasting on the perch and sunnie (and whatever else they can inhale) forage, and older by closely eyeballing any prospective victim.
“Over the years we’ve seen photos of bass in the 8-pound class, some larger that have been caught, and released back into South Vineland Park Pond,” said Freshwater Fisheries principal biologist Chris Smith, who added “It’s an extremely challenging water to fish because of the lack of cover and super clear water, but there are big bass in there. Figure the patterns, technique and baits, and you’ll have a shot at catching these bigger bass.” Smith knows whereof he speaks, being a past two time NJ Bass Angler of the Year and local, regional and national tournament pro competitor.
This is a prime time finesse approach water. The clearness of the water dictates this. Fluorocarbon main lines or leaders are the understood rule. Predicated on the season and subsequent water temperatures, the bass will either be suspended or on the cruise. Drop-shotting, and working suspending and mid-range diving crankbaits are effective tactics. Ripping lipless cranks like the Rat-L-Trap will also elicit strikes. During the weeks leading to the spawn, generally late March through mid-April (barring a late prolonged freeze, such movement in close could be up to a couple of weeks earlier), bass jump ugly on wacky rigged worms, tubes, Ned rigs, Neko rigs, spinnerbaits, Texas rigged plastic worms and creature baits will score big hits at the shallower lower end of the swim where there are submerged ledges and cattails.
As for stocked trout, the depth and cooler waters of the swim make rainbow busting viable into June. Included in the pre-season release of the standard 10.5-inch trout are a smattering of spent breeders anywhere from 16 to 24 inches and upwards of 5 to 6 pounds. The rainbows are in a constant state of cruise and can be picked off with the various Berkley PowerBait, Turbo and Gulp doughs, but it can get tricky adjusting to the reach as the shallows fall away abruptly to deeper water. Salmon eggs, kernel corn, garden and meal worms, and minnows under a bobber will put ‘bows on the stringer. Hardware is a major player in the forms of Mepps and Rooster Tail and spinners, and spoons such as the Phoebe and Al’s Goldfish and Hellgy.
This is a put-and-take fishery. Retaining the rainbows is encouraged. The daily limit through Memorial Day is six, then is reduced to four.