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Canepoling Cats

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Published on: Jul. 2, 1998

Last revision: Nov. 1, 2010

the lighter trunk and limbs trailing downstream. The roots provide cover for small minnows and attachment sites for the insects that catfish feed on.

Probably the most important feature of the rootwad, however, is the "divot" under the root ball. The divot is formed from turbulent flow around the roots that scours the stream bed sediments away, leaving a hole under the structure. This divot provides refuge for catfish from strong currents, and the rootwad itself provides shade and overhead cover from predators.

The best way to fish rootwads and other cover is to approach them at a right angle to the flow of the river. Drop your bait upstream of the rootwad at rod's length. Gently walk the bait toward the rootwad by jigging the rod tip up and down slightly. The river's current will do the work.

When the bait is right up to the rootwad you should see more line disappear into the depth of the divot. Once you are satisfied with the placement of the bait, begin counting. If you count to 100 or so without getting a bite, pull out and check your bait.

If you don't catch a fish soon, move on. Remember, the key to success is to offer a meal to as many fish as possible, so don't waste time with finicky fish.

Because of their limberness and length, canepoles require a fairly hard hook set. Catfish are good fighters and use the cover and flow to their advantage. You have the advantage if you can get the fish into open water. This is best accomplished by backing away from the cover. Without a reel, you have to let the flexibility of the pole play the fish.

Overhanging or Surface Cover:

Any overhanging cover, such as fallen or leaning trees with the tops laying in the water or debris or foam associated with a logjam or beaver dam, provides good cover for catfish. Fish this cover much like a rootwad, concentrating on the upstream end of the structure.

Riffle:

Riffles are productive places to fish. Start upstream and work your way downstream to be sure not to spook fish out of the area. Again, keep in mind depth, flow and substrate. Boulders and any woody debris lodged on riffles tend to cause scour and disrupt flow. Just downstream of the riffle, there is usually a small plunge pool that is created by water falling over the riffle. Concentrate on these areas of the riffle for best results.

The streams of north and west-central Missouri are often good places to fish. Like the fertile fields that line their banks, these creeks and rivers bear "bumper crops" of skillet-sized catfish. Armed with a canepole, a little bait and a lot of ambition, you too can "take the fight to the fish" and enjoy the bounty of Missouri's prairie streams.

Helpful Hints

There is no length limit on stream catfish, so you can clean the fish while you are on the stream. Dress the fish as you catch them, and immediately place the flesh on ice for best flavor.

Keep your bait fresh and it will work for you longer.

Catfish are sensitive to bright light. The best times to fish are early and late. During the day, concentrate on shady areas of the stream.

Good references for planning canepole catfishing trips include USGS topographic maps, Missouri's Conservation Atlas, published by the Conservation Department, and Guide to Floating Missouri Streams, Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

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