Gracie Eyler

Do you enjoy the sport of fishing? If you do, then there is a hefty chance one [or many] of your most treasured memories involves a farm pond, family, and friends.

While not everyone has access to their own private fishing oasis, fortunately, we have a few great spots to cast a line right in our neck of the woods. If you haven’t come across Cool’s Pond, you’re surely missing out on this hidden gem.

Nestled on the top of a mountain, Cool’s Pond is a small piece of paradise. When you arrive at the property you can’t help but notice the scenic overlook, but the view isn’t the biggest draw. It’s actually the massive catfish that can be caught out of two large ponds.

In the 1980s, proprietor Barb Cool’s (late) husband, Sam, tossed around ideas to help generate more revenue for their large family. He came up with a grand plan that was implemented when, in 1985, Sam Cool welcomed the community to “Cool’s Pond” to pay-to-fish (catch and release).

He took out an ad in a local newspaper, expecting crowds to come out and fish. Barb laughed and said that in the beginning, “You’d be lucky to have a few people a week!” After a while, word got out that Sam had the pond stocked with monster catfish, and it snowballed from there.

Barb laughs as she sits on the big farmhouse porch, “I never thought anyone would fish, and then, guess what, I was wrong!”

Unfortunately, in 2019, Sam passed away. Barb and her family worked hard to freshen up the property. Fast-forwarding to 2020, outdoor recreation was at a high. We were all feeling the effects of a rough year, being cooped up inside for too long from the ongoing pandemic. With so much support from their repeat customers over the years, they reopened, and it was just what the community needed. “It was just incredible, the support we received from our fishermen.”

Some of the fish that you may catch and release during your visit include sunfish, crappie, bass, flathead, and channel catfish. The largest catfish, named “Bubba” is roughly 50 pounds and lurks at the bottom of one of the ponds. (Sorry, we can’t tell you which pond—you’ll have to figure that out on your own!) The farm also produces brown eggs and fresh fruit. If you’re looking for farm-fresh eggs, they are available for purchase at the bait shop.

To begin your adventure at Cool’s, you stroll up to the brown building, sign in with an envelope, and leave eight dollars in the envelope. You’ll most likely be greeted by a friendly face, the groundskeeper, Derek. He knows the ponds just as well as Barb and her late husband, Sam.

“Doctor Derek,” Barb jokes, knows an immense amount about the fish species in the pond, appropriate baits and tackle, and when the fish are biting. Informally, his doctor title comes from being the guy who helps the unfortunate who have hooked themselves, to remove the new piercing. Making his rounds to all of the visitors, he is happy to chat about the ponds and provide advice, but he also keeps an eye on those who might not be following the rules.

Another friendly face you may see helping out, is Sammie, Barb’s granddaughter (and Derek’s summer sidekick). Sammie adores her grandparents’ paradise. She spends most of her summer doing odds and ends around the farm and, of course, fishing when she has a chance.

Sammie recollects one of the unforgettable moments growing up, “I was two or three, fishing with my grandfather. I went to cast in, and instead of landing in the pond, the hook landed and was stuck in the back of my head.” Some kids may have ended the hobby right there, but it didn’t discourage Sammie.

Along with the well-maintained grounds, bait is available for purchase and rods are available to rent. For those who may be having trouble with their own fishing rod—or may have had a monster cat hook the line that jerked their fishing rod into the pond—visit the shop, and Derek will outfit you with the appropriate rental.

Snacks and drinks are also available for purchase, but you’re welcome to bring your own meal and picnic while you’re fishing. A variety of benches, chairs, and picnic tables are along the banks, as well as charcoal grills if you feel like cooking! Don’t worry, if you chose not to roast some wieners, they won’t go to waste. Turns out, the catfish may love them more than us. They especially enjoy them if they’ve been soaked in red Kool-Aid! If they don’t hit on hot dogs, then they may be hungry for chicken liver or bait fish.

While enjoying your outing at Cool’s Pond, there are a few rules and pond etiquette that visitors must follow. For example, bait fish are available for purchase. They are kept in a large container with no exposure to other water sources. This limits the risk of introducing disease, unwanted vegetation, and parasites into the pond.

As you’ll notice, there are concrete blocks every so often on the banks. These are used as heavy-duty rod holders, but you are encouraged to stay with your rod. If a big fish grabs the line, there is a very good chance you’ll either need to get creative and try to get your prized rod back or accept its fate, and it will become a part of the fishing-rod graveyard. There have been quite a few recovered over the years.

You are welcome to bring your own food, drinks, and supplies, but please make sure any unwanted items and trash are discarded into the trash bins on the property, or even better, leave with everything you brought. Cigarette butts and cut fishing line along the banks are certainly frowned upon. Discarded string can litter the ponds and threaten other local wildlife in the ecosystem.

Treble hooks are a handy hook to almost guarantee a catch, but they generally cause more harm to the fish when being removed. Skip the treble hooks while at the pond. You’ll save yourself—and your catch—the misery. Instead, use a single-snare hook. “If the fish does swallow the hook, and it cannot be removed without damage, cut the line, and leave the hook in the fish. Hooks will rust and the fish will heal,” Derek said.

One of Sam’s favorite parts about the fishing business is giving people the opportunity to bring their children to a safe place, with few obstacles, to learn the sport. Sam invites local youth up every summer to give kids a class on fishing. Sunfish tend to be curious and aggressive of anything passing through their territory, which makes them ideal to keep little kids interested if they continuously catch them. When you’re done with your bait, take it with you, or ask your neighbor on the bank if they could use it. If the fish are well-fed and don’t have to put up a fight for food, you or your child may have a disappointing day of fishing.

For a nominal fee, Cool’s Pond is a local treasure that you and your family should experience. If you want to take the outdoor experience a step further, make a reservation to go night fishing and even camping! New this year, the family worked hard to provide three fresh new primitive campsites. Each is equipped with a picnic table and private grill. 

Cool’s Pond is located at 14419 Edgemont Road in Smithsburg and is open daily, from sun-up to sundown. To make reservations for a campsite or catfishing at night, call 240-527-9758 or 301-824-0083. There is no license required for fishing.

You won’t just make a good memory, you’ll most likely find yourself making new friends at the Cool family paradise.

Barb Cool, granddaughter Sammie, and Groundskeeper Derek take a quick break from the summer heat before getting back to work at the pond.

Photo by Gracie Eyler

(left) Barb and Sam Cool stand out on the dock at Cool’s Pond.

(right) Gracie and Danny Eyler show off their skills (really, just random luck) catfishing at Cool’s Pond. Please note, it’s not always as easy as it looks holding a catfish and posing for a picture.

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