Now, if you remember, we left off with your bluegill baited and in the water. I usually have about five feet of line on the ditty pole, just in case I get into a step-bank situation where I need more line to get to the water. I normally like my bait to be just barely under the surface, depending on whether the river is rising or falling. I know some guys like to submerge their live bait with a weight. I’m not saying that is wrong, but I feel the bait will get complacent and not swim around, causing a commotion and calling attention to itself. So I take the excess line and wrap it around the top of the ditty pole until I get the bait hanging right where I want it.
Now let’s talk about the rules, according to Iowa DNR, about ditty poles. A licensed angler is only allowed five poles with no more than two hooks per line. A tag, visible somewhere or legibly written on the pole itself, must contain your name, address, and phone number. Ditty poles cannot be in the same location for more than a 24-hour period. Here’s the important one that gets anglers into trouble. It is legal to use any legal fish, caught by legal means, as bait. Yes, you could use a 16-inch bass for bait. Why you would is a different story. Here is the kicker: the bait needs to be caught out of the same body of water your ditty pole is in. You cannot take a bucket full of bluegill from Discovery Park and transport them to use as bait on the Cedar River or any other body of water.
Back to fishing. Like I said, I like to go around dusk. I start downriver, looking for spots to place my poles: bends, log jams, mouth of creeks, just about any place I figure a big old catfish will swim into looking for a meal. Once I get the last pole baited and in place, I kill the motor and let the current drift me back downstream until I get to my first pole. Depending on the time of year and how far apart I spread my poles from one another, it should be getting dark by this time. I take a flashlight and shine it on the pole to check for any movement. Believe me, you will know if there is something on it. It takes a pretty good-sized fish to make a ¾-inch PVC pole dance.
Here is the fun part. While the pole is banging away in the dark, I pull up beside it and gently lower my net under the fish before I grab the line. I have lost many a big catfish by getting too anxious. Lo and behold, you’ve got a monster. I’ve caught lots of monster catfish this way. Have fun and enjoy!
Jerry’s Outdoors Show heard Friday mornings at 10 a.m. exclusively on KWPC AM 860 and 95.1 FM