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Rather be fishing?


Josh Larson reels in a nice big one while out fishing with a buddy.

Josh Larson reels in a nice big one while out fishing with a buddy.

Picture this: An autumn breeze rakes across the water carrying the first fallen leaf of the season. It’s quiet outside. The only sounds to be heard come from a handful of squirrels and birds mixed with cicadas or locusts or whatever those whirring bugs are in the trees this time of year. The sun begins its decent toward the tree line as the faint sound of hooks breaking the water’s surface combine with an exhale of quiet optimism. It’s time to fish.

Every year Polk County Conservation hosts a fishing event to educate Iowans about catfish and how to catch them. The most abundant sport fish in Iowa goes to the lustrous channel cat, which are found in nearly all Iowa lakes, ponds, streams and rivers.

“During the class, we’ll go over why catfish tactics are a little different than regular open-water fishing,” said Polk County Conservation Park Ranger Charlie Finch. “We’ll talk a little bit about the different species of catfish, from Bullhead to Flathead to channel cat — what each species is known for and how to target them. After that, we’ll head out to the sandbar and do some fishing for a couple hours.”

Yellow Banks Park rises above the Des Moines River and is prime real estate for catching catfish. This is the perfect time of year to fish for channel cats, as well as the perfect hour to snag a flathead or two. Whether you choose to keep or release your fish is up to you. Finch and another park ranger will be around at the end of the night to offer help for those who have never cleaned their catch.

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Don’t have a pole? Don’t worry about it. This class is designed to introduce people to catfish and teach new fishers how best to hook a fish on their line.

“We’ve got some extra poles for people in need, but we’d recommend to folks who have their own to bring it. We don’t have a million, but we’ve got a few extras if you need it,” Finch said.

Another benefit to bringing your own pole is that folks can stay as long as they’d like. Finch will collect the park’s poles at the end of the night, and while Yellow Banks Park closes at 10:30 p.m., but the river is open 24 hours, and those fishing can be out until they’ve had their fill of catfish.

For anyone older than 16, a fishing license is required by law. The license costs $19 and can be purchased from most retail stores (Walmart, Bass Pro Shop, Scheels, bait shops) and is valid until Jan. 10. Anyone younger can fish for free in Iowa.

“This is all about educating,” said Finch. “We’ll teach people how to tie their line, what baits to use, how to put weights on, how to set up their pole — everything you really need to know to catch catfish.” CV              

David Rowley is an Iowa native with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Iowa and a master’s in film journalism from the University of Glasgow in Scotland.


Want to attend Catfish Basics? Be at Yellow Banks Park boat ramp, 6801 S.E. 32nd Ave. in Pleasant Hill, on Thursday, Sept. 19, from 6-9 p.m. Cost is $5. Register online by Sept. 18. Check out to learn more.

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