Every angler has been driving down the road and seen a pond on the side of the road and thought "Man, that looks like a little piece of heaven, I wish I could fish in it!" Well, often times, you can. Most land owners would not mind a responsible person fishing in their pond, as long as they are respectful and clean up. Some will not let anyone other than family fish, but even these land-owners can often be pursuaded every now and then.
The first step to gaining access to a pond is approaching the owner. This does not mean driving by, hanging your head out the window and yelling "CAN I COME FISHING?". I mean actually, physically, face-to-face approach of the land owner. Say you noticed the pond while driving by, and was wondering if you could possibly go fishing one day. If they are outside doing yardwork, offer them a drink out of your cooler (if you have one in your vehicle) and offer to help them. More often than not, he or she will allow you to fish in exchange for work. If they are not working in the yard, politely knock on the door, state your name and objective, and tell them you are willing to help them do work if you are granted permission. Give them your phone number, and get theirs also so you can call and find a good time.
The next step is finding out whether or not the land owner will allow you to keep fish, or prefers strictly catch and release. Some owners will encourage you to keep a few fish for the table; whether or not you agree with their decision, do as they ask. It is their property and they are permitting you to fish it, what the owner says goes. If they want some bream or catfish taken out, get a can of worms and help them. This might appalle some hard-core bassers, but if this is the case, ask to bring a child. I promise they will enjoy an afternoon of catching panfish and catfish.
Now, one of the most important; be responsible! Many landowners are reluctant to allow people to fish because of previous experiences with irresponsible guests. They have had people leave dead fish, balls of line, drink cans, lures, bags, etc. and do not want another similar experience. This also leaves the impression that fishermen are irresponsible and careless. As a young angler, I have experienced first hand people that automatically assume because of my age that I am careless and irresponsible. Believe me, if a land owner thinks you will not respect his land, he will reject you faster than a bass can spit out a soft jerkbait.
One last factor is appearance and presentation. By appearance, I do not mean you have to wear a suit and tie. I just mean don't walk up to a land owner with a t-shirt that has more holes and tobacco stains than fabric. By presentation, I mean be respectful. Instead of saying "Can I go stick some toads in that there pond of yours?", say "Sir, my name is (insert your name). I saw your pond and was wondering if I could fish it sometime. If you need any help around here, give me a call and I'll help you any way I can." Another good idea is to leave the rods at home. By showing up with rods and tackle in your hands, you might pressure the owner, and only get one trip at best.
Of course, not all land owners are going to allow you permission to fish. But, if a land owner is willing to allow someone to fish, these tips should help you get permission. If not, move on to another pond. Just remember, be polite! Whoever said nice guys finish last apparantly never fished in private ponds.
Take care and God bless,