Nestled in the expansive Harold Parker State Forest, Field Pond truly is the gateway to the park. This 68-acre pond, the largest in Harold Parker, is part of the Delano-Brackett-Collins-Field chain of ponds that travels from north-to-south along the forest’s western end. It’s inflow comes from Brackett pond, and enters Field in one of its shallow northwestern coves. The outflow, spilling out at the southern dam, makes its way through wetlands and a residential area before entering the Skug River, and eventually the mighty Ipswich. Despite its shallow nature (the pond has a maximum depth of 11 feet, and an average of six feet), there is plenty of water to explore.
This pond is near-and-dear to my heart because it is the one I learned to fish at. I have spent countless hours in all four seasons exploring the trails and woods around the water, and have caught a number of fish along the way. Although I will be going fairly in-depth while explaining the intricacies of the pond, I wouldn’t consider it spot burning. For anglers looking to get into the sport around the Boston area, this is often the first water body they look to. It is a well-known spot, and can provide anglers a place to get their feet wet (sometimes literally – do not trust the waterside logs and stumps!). Hopefully, by reading this overview, beginner anglers, or really anglers of any skill level, will be encouraged to discover the many fishing opportunities found within the confines of Harold Parker. There’s a lot of water to explore, but by starting small at the largest pond, you’ll already be well on your way.
I have caught four species of fish in Field Pond, but some are more prolific than others. In order of prevalence, they are: bluegill, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed, and yellow perch.
By far, the most abundant and easy to catch species in the pond is bluegill. Their cousins, the pumpkinseeds, have similar characteristics, yet are slightly harder to find. The sunfish can grow quite large, up to ten inches, but an average catch is closer to five or six inches. In the winter, early spring, and late fall, try the deeper water of the eastern two sections of the pond. In the summer, however, you’ll likely have luck anywhere, and can often find these scrappy brutes in water as shallow as six inches, granted you don’t spook them first. Fishing for these species isn’t technical. For conventional anglers, an ultra-light to light setup spooled with 2-6 pound test line will suit you well, but don’t stress it if you only have heavier gear. A fly angler should use a 00-5 weight rod and reel paired with floating line. And finally, if you fancy yourself a trip on the ice, bring your lightest panfish stick and you’ll be golden. Much like the tackle needed, you needn’t worry about your lure or fly selection. Small soft plastic worms, grubs, tubes, and other assorted baits will do some serious damage, as will small crankbaits, topwaters, spinners, and spoons. Worthy flies include dry flies of all kinds (I like small foam ones the best because they stay floating even after dozens of fish), a huge number of nymphs, although special attention should be payed to those with rubber legs, soft hackles, very small streamers, and small poppers and bass bugs if the sunfish are feeling ambitious. During the icey months, tie on an ice fishing fly, or try small tungsten jigheads tipped with soft plastics or wax worms. If you take enough casts, you’re sure to catch a sunfish at some point.
Next , and probably most popular on the list, are largemouth bass. Although the pond is quite large and fertile, the bass found in it are almost all cookie cutters in the seven to ten inch range. Some larger specimens can be found, and just yesterday I saw what appeared to be about a two-pounder. The largest bass I have seen taken from the pond was around five pounds, and I’ve heard reports of sixes. The problem is, almost all of these larger catches were from days gone by, and I am lead to believe that this body of water simply doesn’t produce the quality of fish it used to. Anyhow, the bass are still ferocious and certainly a worthy target. The aforementioned spots for sunfish also hold true for the seasonal patterns of bass, but the bass will also be found slightly deeper in the warmer months. To fish for largemouths here, use your typical bass gear, or setups slightly lighter than what you typically use. I love medium-light spinning rods and medium baitcasters when spin fishing. When fly fishing, I usually use gear between a 5 and 7 weight depending on the size flies. A floating line will get you by much of the time, but occasionally it’s nice to have an intermediate or sink-tip. When ice fishing, you’ll have your most luck jigging with a light to medium power rod, but tip ups will also work at certain times. I used to think that, because of the size of these fish, they would only eat small lures. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. These bass are ultra-aggressive and ultra-stupid, sometimes eating baits at least half their size. Any of your typical bass gear, such as soft plastics, jigs, topwaters, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and swimbaits will work, as will smaller panfish-sized lures and flashy lures like spinners and spoons (some of my favorite early-season tactics). Drop larger ice fishing flies, marabou jigs, larger soft plastics, and certain hard baits through the ice, as well as small to medium sized shiners on tip ups. The pond is undoubtedly a quantity-over-quality spot, but that isn’t always such a bad thing, is it?
The final species on the list is yellow perch, which is also the most elusive species. To be completely honest, the one perch I caught could have been a total anomaly, seeing as, despite dozens of hours spent fishing here, I haven’t caught or seen a single other one. If there are any more, it’s most likely they spend their time in the deeper sections of the pond. Your best bet to catch one of these fish would probably be through the ice using small spoons or jig heads tipped with wax worms. Other than that, the typical panfish fare is always good for a perch or two where they exist. Funnily enough, my perch-colored Thunder Creek streamer is a deadly fly here, possibly due to the fact that the bass prey on the young perch fry.
To most effectively fish this pond, it is best to think of it in three sections: the shallow western bay, the deep southern dam area, and the intermediate water found in the central and eastern parts of the pond. All three areas fish differently depending on the season, but during the peak time, typically between mid-April and early-October, fish can be found anywhere.
To begin, let’s discuss the first third of the pond: the shallow western bay. The first thing you have to understand about this part of the pond is the vast number of stumps scattered across the bottom. When this pond was constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) in the mid-1900’s, the young men neglected to remove the stumps from the trees cut down to create the pond. What was left is a mess of snaggy tree stumps and roots, simply waiting to eat your favorite lure. In addition, this area quickly fills with milfoil and lily pads during the summer, which will make your mind spin if you don’t take the necessary precautions to prevent snagging them. The best way to get around all these difficulties is to use either weedless or topwater lures and flies. Sometimes, early in the season before the weeds are out, you can get away with a non-weedless lure, but unless you cast within your field of sight underwater, you can’t guarantee there won’t be a snaggy log or two. The best spots to target in these areas are fallen trees, overhanging branches, and, unfortunately, the submerged stumps that provide the fish cover from the numerous great blue herons. This is the most productive area for shore anglers because fish like to hang around the shallows. That being said, the spots available from shore are often tight, so make sure you feel comfortable casting with limited backcast space. Early in the season, while the water is clear and low enough, the silhouettes of dozens of schooling bass and sunfish can often be seen cruising the shallows. Take one cast into these pods and you’re sure to hook up.
The next part of the pond we’ll focus on is the dam area, home of the deepest depths in Field. Fish can be found here year-round, which is why it is a good spot to start at if you’re feeling daunted. The dam here just recently got redone throughout late 2019 and early 2020, and I’m already really liking what I’m seeing. While the area directly in front of the dam and surrounding rip-rap gets quite deep, the areas to the left and right side of the dam are very shallow, much like that of the western side of the pond. There are still some stumps around here, especially at the far east portion of the dam wall, but there are significantly fewer than in other spots. This is a good place to try hard baits that dive down to intermediate depths, but you could truly fish your entire tackle box here and catch a fish on every lure or fly. Speaking of flies, this is a great spot for beginners to practice their fly casting because of the large amounts of open backast room available. It is also a good place for boaters to travel because they are able to access much of the deeper water that is unfishable by land. If there were to be any truly large fish in the pond, they would probably reside here.
The third and final section of the pond, and also the most accessible, is the eastern and central water. Other than a few notable features like the dike, boat launch, and adjacent Harold Parker Road, this area isn’t particularly special. It is somewhat of a mixture of the two other areas, with some relatively deep water as well as shallow, weedy coves. As a result, a large number of flies and lures work here. This is the most highly pressured part of the pond because of its proximity to the road and parking area (39 Harold Parker Road, on the right coming from route 125). You’ll often see people fishing from the many spots along the road; however, this is a dangerous and unproductive strategy that should be avoided at all costs. Instead, focus on the trails and boat-accessible spots that hold plenty more fish than the unsafe ones.
In conclusion, Field Pond and the surrounding ponds in Harold Parker State Forest should be on any anglers bucket list within the northeast Massachusetts/Boston area. If you’re looking for a quiet, beautiful spot to spend an evening catching countless fish, then this is definitely the spot for you. In the process, you may even enjoy seeing some of the local wildlife, like white-tailed deer, great blue herons, Canada geese, beavers, mallard ducks, barred owls, and yes, even fishers. Bring your family, have a picnic, or go on a hike-the choice is yours; just be sure to have fun!
Helpful links: Harold Parker, depth map, Fishbrain location.
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