If you are looking for a new fishing adventure, poling a skiff is definitely a method worth adding to your repertoire. It is serene yet thrilling. It doesn’t require a trek out to sea; you can simply push out from the dock and begin the hunt. Before setting out though, it is important to learn some basics because it will take some time to get the hang of it.
What is a Push Pole and Why do I Need One?
Push poles are quite literally poles, often made of aluminum, fiberglass or carbon fiber. Anglers use them to quietly maneuver their skiff or flats boat around in shallow waters by using the pole to push off the floor of the water body. Moving around in the water quietly affords anglers the opportunity to get around without spooking the fish. A push pole can also be used as an anchor if the situation demands it, as it helps to maintained position in silence.
Although it is possible to fish from a vessel that does not have a poling platform, including a kayak, having a platform is certainly helpful. The platform is simply a level of elevation added to the bow or aft of the boat to create better visualization. When using a platform, the push pole should be lightweight and at least 16 feet in length. Rule of thumb: 3 feet longer than your skiff and the longer the better (better to have too much than too little).
The Science of Using a Push Pole
Poling a skiff requires a certain level of finesse and a fine-tuned technique. It is not difficult to master, but it does take time and practice. For starters, when using the push pole, you will want to slowly walk your hands up the pole as you push. Secondly, you’ll need to understand the directional maneuvers. You will be standing at the transom acting as the pivot point, so:
- If you want the boat to move straight, push directly backwards, keeping the pole aligned with the boat’s centerline.
- If you want the bow to turn left, push off from the port side at a 3 o’clock angle.
- To move right, push from the starboard side.
- To stop the boat, you simply plant the pole in place or use a gentle forward push if need be. Just keep in mind that the bow may begin to turn in the direction of the side you are pushing from.
Granted, this is an over-simplified explanation as there are several variations of movements that can be made to achieve the desired outcome. There are also variables such as wind and force that can change the course of the boat. For one, the force with which you push will determine the speed at which the boat moves and turns. Additionally, wind can present a challenge, but as a rule of thumb, try using the wind as a sail and turn into it or let it carry you rather than trying to fight it.
Penultimately, when planting the foot of the pole, place it as close to the boat as possible. You don’t want the pole to create a large angle; keep the angle tight when beginning the maneuver.
Finally, it’s important to remember that a gentle touch is all you need. Many people make the mistake of using too much force and quickly lose control of the skiff. Subtle movements are key to keeping you steady and reducing the amount of noise you make, which is after all the main goal.
Push Pole Uses
Poling is great for positioning your boat to the ideal location and doing so quietly enough to avoid stirring things up. To effectively do this, you have to know when using a push pole is appropriate. For example, even though it is used for propelling a boat forward, a push pole is not to be used as an oar. This is not its intended purpose, and it will not serve well as such.
Furthermore, a push pole is best used in shallow waters of all types, especially where tall grass is present. The pole is a great alternative to areas where the grass is high because trolling motors can destroy the grass, which is a coveted part of marine ecosystems.
Push poles are most suitable for lightweight boats likes flats/skiffs and can also be used on kayaks or other light weight vessels. You can pole the local ocean inlet or the river near home. While it is possible to fish alone when using a push pole, having someone else on board is very helpful. Once you and your crew spot an area with plenty of fish or your target fish, its time to put down the pole and grab your rod!
Poling is an effective way to fish without scaring away your prey, but it does take patience. Get our on the water when the weather is calm and take it slow and easy; give yourself the time to learn the nuances and perfect your technique. We guarantee that in no time, you will be able to snag almost any fish your heart desires, as many species visit shallow waters at some point.