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Canepoling Cats

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Published on: Jul. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 1, 2010

We paddled silently through a summer morning's fog, the canoe cutting a path through the glasslike surface of the river. Glancing back to catch a last glimpse of the century-old iron bridge where we launched, I could hear the murmur of a riffle somewhere ahead.

I paddled faster with anticipation and guided our canoe onto a nearby sand bar. My thoughts intent upon the whiskered fish that awaited us, I quietly gathered my tackle and entered the river.

My partner waded to a large cottonwood lodged in a cut bank several yards downstream from the riffle. The rootwad's gnarly mass, about the size of a small car, was mostly submerged and faced into the current.

Pausing a moment to thread a fresh minnow on the hook, he stepped off into chest-deep water. I watched as he held the entire length of the 15 foot pole before him and skillfully "walked" the bait with the current into the front of the rootwad. Then I mentally started counting as I knew he would. One, two, three... boom!

Like a flag staff in a hurricane, his pole arched as he set the hook. Once out of the rootwad and into the open current, the fish stubbornly fought the line, nearly doubling over the lanky pole.

The fish rolled at the surface for an instant, then made another run. However, in a minute or two, the fish tired and came to hand. By the time you could say "channel catfish," it was dangling from my friend's stringer.

Canepole fishing is really as simple as it looks-a pole, length of line and a hook. It's too simple for some modern anglers, but if you are willing to swallow your pride you can have fun using a canepole for catfish.

Most catfish anglers passively fish for catfish by throwing out a line and waiting for the catfish to come to them. The canepole method allows us to speed up the action and place the bait directly in front of every catfish in the pool.

The pole:

You can choose from several styles of canepoles. The primary concern when shopping for a suitable pole is length. Basically, look for a pole long enough to keep you a modest distance from the fish.

A minimum length pole for river wade-fishing is 12 feet. Most anglers-or canepolers-prefer telescoping fiberglass "canepoles" for canoe fishing trips. These poles consist of three or more sections that fit inside each other like the sections

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