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Cane-pole Pleasures

Housed within my spare bedroom closet is a veritable forest of graphite fishing rods. There are fly rods of every imaginable weight and description: a baitcasting rod capable of handling 30-pound fish, wispy spinning rods that make every fish a challenge, and 12-foot rods especially designed for crappie.

I’ve somehow convinced myself that a different (that is, expensive) rod is needed for every kind of fish.

On a recent visit to my dad’s house, however, I reached into his spare bedroom closet and pulled out some dusty relics of my childhood: two old cane poles.

Cane poles were once the standard. Now they’re an anomaly. Not many stores carry them anymore. That’s a shame, because I’m rediscovering the simplicity and fun of fishing with a cane pole. I’ve also learned that you don’t need $100 worth of fishing equipment just to catch fish.

For cane pole fishing in its purest form, the only tackle you need is a bobber, split-shot weights, and some long shank, No. 8 light wire hooks. If you dig worms from your compost pile, you’re completely outfitted for under $10. Stores that still stock cane poles often sell them already rigged and ready to go. Most cane poles come in three sections, so storing a 10-foot pole in a closet or garage is easy.

Combining a picnic with some bank fishing with cane poles is an inexpensive way to spend some time outdoors with your family and keep the kids occupied. Kids can burn off some of that excess energy by chasing and capturing grasshoppers, which make great bait.

I’ve found that cane poles, which are longer than most fishing rods, have some advantages. You can often place your bobber along the edges of weed beds where the fish lurk. You can take off the bobber and use the reach of the pole to jig worms around tree roots, bushes, and fallen trees in the water. Cane poles, despite their simplicity, do catch fish.

Now, don’t get me wrong. More often than not, I’ll still pluck a graphite rod from my closet when I’m ready to go fishing. But the cane poles won’t be staying in there long enough to collect dust.


Kids under 16 do not need a license to fish. Resident adults can purchase a special one-day license for $6, or a year-round license for $15. For information about the lake nearest you, go to on the Internet and click on “fishing.”

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