Poke Pole Fishing Tips

The Fishing time
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Using some type of stick with a tethered bait attached to catch various marine species like crustaceans, eels and the inshore fishes that live within rocky intertidal zones is a practice that dates back to primeval times. Over the centuries, coastal Indians along the Pacific coast and Hawaiian locals have become particularly adept at this type of fishing technique, which has come to be known as ‘poke poling’. Although it is primarily done along the west coast and in the Hawaiian Islands, there is certainly no reason why it is not possible for other anglers in similar venues to do it as well. As a matter of fact, lobsters are taken in some locations along the eastern seaboard using this method.

Tidal Movement

In addition to finding suitable rocky terrain to fish, successful poke poling relies heavily upon tidal movement and is particularly effective during periods of minus tides. The idea is to reach points that lie between the prevailing high and low tide marks at the lowest point on any given day.

The few of the species that are generally available to poke pole anglers on the Pacific coast include rock cod, cabezon, lingcod, kelp greenling a variety of rock crabs and one of the most prized catches in the northwest, the monkeyface prickleback (Cebidichthys violaceus), which is often mistakenly referred to as an eel, but is actually a fin fish with a hyper-elongated body.

How to Make a Poke Pole

Unlike other types of fishing tackle, poke pole rigs are not usually for sale on the open market unless they are homemade. The good news is that it is rather easy to make one yourself. Start out with a piece of bamboo that is 4 to 5 feet long and about 1.5 inches in diameter. Take a straight piece of metal coat hanger 10 to 12 inches long and bend about an inch of one end over to make a loop using a pair of strong pliers or vice-grips. Attach the other end about 2 inches up the bamboo using a strong braided fishing line, and then apply a high strength adhesive like Gorilla Glue to hold it all in place. After the glue has set, attach a heavy duty clip swivel to the metal loop at the end. Securely tie on a 4 to 5-inch length of 40-pound test monofilament leader with a 3/0 to 4/0 octopus hook at the terminal end, and your new poke pole is ready to use.

What Bait to Use 

When it comes to bait, one of the most universally effective offerings is cut squid. It is easy to use and economical, but one of its best features is its toughness and ability to stay on the hook even after it has been bitten. Other good baits are chunks of the various types of shellfish living right on the rocks where you are fishing. These include limpets, mussels, abalone and other types of sea snail. Just be sure to check your local fishing regulations first in order to avoid taking any species that is protected by law.

Just as it is important to walk carefully when fishing from the wet boulders used to construct most jetties and breakwaters, it is even more vital to remember when poke poling since the surface that you are walking on is often covered by mosses, eelgrass and a variety of seaweeds.

Where to Drop the Bait

As you head out toward the breakers, look for slightly submerged holes, crevices, cracks and small caves as places to drop a bait. Allow it to dangle down in front of potential hiding spots and slowly move it around in the area so that it appears to have been washed in by the tide. This is often when a fish, eel or crab will fly out and inhale it. When this occurs, set the hook and immediately pull upward on your pole to free your catch from its rocky home.

Be sure to also bring along a sturdy 5-gallon bucket to hold your catch as you traverse the rocks and tidal pools where you are fishing. After a few hours of low tide, the water begins to rise to a level that makes a poke pole no longer practical to use as a tool for fishing. But by that time, most anglers have had a chance to get what they were going after; a variety of exotic delights from the sea that can be taken home and enjoyed in a number of tasty ways.