Book on Baldwin & beyond: Don’t judge the cover

Book on Baldwin & beyond: Don’t judge the cover

After the snow and ice of winter fades away and the warming weather of spring begins, this small body of water sports a clean surface with hardly any aquatic growth.

It is stocked with trout by the DEEP Inland Fisheries prior to opening day of the Connecticut trout season and does give some area trout fishermen a place to fish.

As summer weather arrives, the pond starts to show a surface sporting a heavy growth of lily pads, especially along the shorelines. Trout that weren’t caught during the early part of the season are still there, but the growth of lily pads has made fishing for them from shore just about impossible.

While the pond has been there for as long as I can remember, it almost seems to be a place that time forgot, fishing-wise.

I’m talking about Baldwins Pond, located in Meriden on the corner of North Wall Street and Westfield Road just across from Falcon Field.

Back in the late 40s and early 50s, and even into the 60s, Baldwins Pond was the “go to” spot for many Meriden anglers on opening day of trout season. It was heavily stocked with trout, many of them by the Meriden Rod & Gun Club.

There was also a time that Baldwins Pond was a coveted swimming hole. It had a sandy beach (now covered with grass and goose poop) and a metal structure that served as a diving platform (now gone). After a while it seemed to drop into the lost cracks of time and no one seemed to care about it.

A while back it was drained and all kinds of muck and debris were taken out. The dam was rebuilt and, for all appearances, it looked like Baldwins Pond was in the running again as a place to fish.

For a while, the Meriden Rod & Gun Club, with support from the City of Meriden, purchased trout and stocked Baldwins Pond as well as Crescent Lake in Giuffrida Park. The DEEP Inland Fisheries even came on board, once again recognizing Baldwins Pond as a viable place to stock.

Use as a swimming source ended, although the park still has a structure that once served as a bathhouse with restrooms. It has a magnificent play area for parents to take their kids to and a heavily used soccer field at one end of the pond. Even with the heavy growth of lily pads in spots on the pond, it can be a tranquil spot to spend some time.

“But what about the fishing at Baldwins Pond?” you might ask.

Over the years, I have personally witnessed fishing success in spots that more “knowledgeable” fishermen might ignore for reasons known only to them (more on that further in the column). Baldwins Pond seems to be one of these spots. After the initial “trout fishing frenzy” wears down, Baldwins Pond is virtually ignored by most fishermen as a spot to wet a line.

Because we now live on the East Side, I drive pass Baldwins Pond many times during the day and every once in a while I see local resident Martin Loos fishing the pond. It is only a short walk from his home on Westfield Road, so why not fish the pond?

Every once in a while Marty gives me an update on the pond. (He even told me when there was a bald eagle looking for a meal on the pond.) Having fished the pond most of his life, Loos knows that there are always fish there to catch if you know here to look for them. Evidently, he does.

It seems that Marty Loos has been experiencing some exciting fishing for largemouth bass from the shoreline of Baldwins Pond. No, I am not going to tell you just where Marty does his fishing, but he did say I could tell you what he is using to do his fishing with.

What better way to catch Meriden bass with than fishing lures made right here in Meriden? I’m talking about Lunker City Fishing Lures. Marty has been using one called the “Salad Spoon” and he says it is his favorite lure for connecting with some of those Baldwin Pond largemouth bass. Marty says three-pounders are not uncommon and he has even hooked up with some five pounds and larger.

Hey, this is no fish story. Just ask Marty Loos about fishing Baldwins Pond using a Lunker City lure made right here in Meriden.

I also found it interesting to note that while Baldwins Pond is listed as a trout-only pond in the CT Angler’s Guide, it is listed in neither Connecticut Lakes and Ponds (published in 1950 by the then State Board of Fisheries and Game) nor in A Fisheries Guide To Lakes and Ponds in Connecticut (published by the CT DEEP in 2002).

Over the years there have been some lunker catfish and trout also caught in Baldwins Pond. The pond also has sunfish and yellow perch as well as some bullheads. It just goes to show: You can’t tell a book (or fishing spot) by its cover.

To prove a point, years ago a group of us were vacationing up in North Truro on Cape Cod. We were passing away the day on Head Of The Meadow beach, soaking up the sun and watching our kids play on some of the sandbars exposed by the low tide.

The outgoing tide had left one medium-sized body of water surrounded by sandbars and we sort of snickered at an angler who was dutifully fishing the isolated body of saltwater. He was casting a plug into the small salt pond that we “knew” could not contain any fish, especially the coveted striped bass that the Cape was famous for.

Suddenly, the angler’s rod bent over and we could see that he was hooked up with a very large fish. Naturally, we moseyed over to check out his catch. It was a striped bass, about 20 pounds!

We stampeded back to shore to get our fishing tackle. No, we did not get any more stripers, but it did prove that you can’t judge a fishing hole by its looks.

Going back in time to the late 40s, as kids we were always fishing the Quinnipiac River. We had favorite fishing spots like Sucker’s Alley, Charlie’s Rock. The Beach, The Cables, The Rock Pool, Boy Scout Island, Second Bridge, The Rapids, Carpenter’s Dam and Third Bridge.

For some reason, Red Bridge was completely ignored as a fishing spot. Of course, Red Bridge was still the main source to cross the Quinnipiac River from Oregon Road, but there was not too much traffic back then. While Red Bridge remained as a favorite hangout to dive off and swim from in the hot days of summer, no thought was ever given to it as a fishing spot.

And then one day one of our gang decided to fish off of the bridge and landed a brown trout that was well over 20 inches in length. He caught it on a nightcrawler.

That was all we needed to know.

Just about every day during the early months of summer we could be found fishing from Red Bridge and, YES, we were catching brown trout and I do not believe one of them was under 14 inches in length. Eventually, some adult fishermen caught on to our hot spot and pretty well cleaned out the trout.

Nobody ever fished further upriver that what used to be the Third Bridge (now gone) located just above Carpenters Dam. Then one day, for no apparent reason, one of our gang, Jack Gura, decided to fish the Quinnipiac above the bridge on Cheshire Street in Cheshire. He hooked up with a mammoth brown trout and another fishing spot was revealed.

In fact, I turned over a wild trout that appeared to be a cross between a brown and brook trout (called tiger trout) that one of the local sportsmen had given to me. I turned it over to area game warden Fred Pogmore and he turned it over to UConn and they said it was a wild trout hybrid.

This area of the Quinnipiac River is now a wild trout area and can be fished, catch and release only.

In the early years, South Meriden also had a couple of sandpits that supplied sand for various projects. As the sand was depleted, small isolated ponds, probably from the water table under the sand, began to form. After a while, the ponds began to show various forms of aquatic life, including some fish.

Where they came from I do not have a clue, but they were there and as kids we fished for them. One of the ponds was located in the sandpit on the north end of the airport runway and it was filled with bullheads. Many a fine fish-fry came from the nondescript sandpit pond back in the 40s.

I lived for years on the banks of the Quinnipiac River almost opposite of St. Laurent Cemetery on Hanover Road. One night I was coming home a bit late and it was already dark and I saw a bright light down beneath the bank of the cemetery. Being the curious guy that I am, I parked my truck and went over to see what the light was all about.

Imagine my surprise when I peaked over the bank and saw two young men fishing. They were fishing hook and release and catching just about every kind of fish you could imagine. They told me they have been fishing that area of the Quinnipiac River for about a year and caught fish just about anytime they fished there.

Again, it just goes to prove you can’t tell a fishing hole by its looks.

Oh, and last week I picked up an old friend, Lou “Gee Gee” Barneschi, and took him down to our Connecticut shoreline to see how the snapper blue fishing was. If you remember, I had already struck out three times while seeking these little battlers. Gee Gee and I hit all of my favorite hot spots and came away with one snapper blue that I returned to the water.

Snapper reports I have received say there are snappers in some spots, but they are still quite small. I guess I will never be a saltwater fishing guide.

Have a safe Labor Day. See ya’ and God Bless America and watch over our troops wherever they may be.


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