Poling in mud?

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to try poling. Wow what a fun way to get around in the swamps! However the mud is deep and the pole would get a “little” stuck up sometimes. I can imagine there would be a way to make an attachment for the end of the pole that would expand when pushed downward and colaps when pulled back up??? Anyone made one or know of anyone who makes anything good for the mud? Any help is greatly appreciated!

Increase the surface area

– Last Updated: Apr-02-07 6:55 PM EST –

Good to hear that you made it out this weekend. It's all a matter of increasing the surface area at the end of your pole. One way of doing this is to cut out a triangle from a 3/4" thick piece of wood, drill 2 holes on one side and wire it to the bottom of your pole. The edge sticking out away from your pole should be 3 - 4 " and the edge running up your pole with the holes dill in it should be around 7". You'll want to shape it a little bit to give it some style but that is the basic idea. It is called a crow's foot and I have used it in some swampy areas with good results.

Northwest Woodsman

Swampers used to have a fork end
for dealing with mud.

Duck bill
I’ve read of, and seen pictures of, a duck-bill style pole shoe that is adapted for muddy bottoms. Picture 2 shoehorns put together and hinged at the “grip” end, with the spoon ends back to back. Pushing the pole into the water would force the spooned ends away from each other to create the surface area needed to provide purchase on the mud without sticking into it. On the recovery, the spooned ends would come back together so they did not get hung up. Or something like that. Haven’t seen one in person or tried to make one.


Shake, twist, give up
In this area there are many waterways where the bottom is very soft, fine silt, or technically, mud. The pole sinks in 1 to 2 feet, and often never hits anything very solid.

Mud is baffling stuff. If you try to pull your boat up a muddy bank, it is difficult, because your feet keep slipping. Meanwhile, your boat sticks to that mud like it was superglue. If its slippery, why doesn’t the boat just slide?

Poling, you plant the pole and it just sort of oozes into the mud, and it is hard to generate much propulsion. Yet, when you reach the end of the pole and want to retrieve the pole, it doesn’t want to release, it wants to stay stuck in the mud, and sometimes I completely stop the boat trying to jerk the pole out of the mud. It is usually helpful to shake and twist the pole as you reach the end of the push and retrieve the pole. The twist and shake must break the adhesive force of the mud on the pole, and it comes out more easily.

But mostly my technique for dealing with mud is to put the pole down and grab a paddle. The poling just does not seem effective.

I would be concerned that adding surface area at the end of the pole is going to make the retrieval more difficult. I’ll be interested to hear if you have some good results.

~~Chip Walsh, Gambrills, MD

look up “push pole” or “duck feet” in the keyword search. Hunters and fisherman use them all the time.

Duck bill pole
Try looking at a place where they sell waterfowl hunting equipment. Lots of duckhunters use them to get into (well, usually to get OUT of :)) muddy spots. Cabelas, Bass Pro Shops, maybe some other online hunting outfitters.

Add to my wish list
There is a BassPro store near me that I have never visited, but I expect to be dropping in soon. I’ll either buy or make equivalent of those feet by the Memorial Day weekend trip to Jug Bay. That part of the Patuxent used to be plied (plyed?) by Steamships until it silted in during the twentieth century. Now its largely tidal mud flats. That pole foot could come in real handy down there.

Thanks for the hint.


Both will work
I’ve use both the duckbill and the Crows foot. I would say the duckbill works better in real soft mud and the crows foot will do the job if it’s not to soft. I once got myself out of a bad spot by tying on a short piece of 2 inch branch against my pole shoe. I guess you would call it an expedient crows foot but it worked.

Just what I was looking for!
Thanks everyone for the leads to the shoe ends! Cabella’s and basspro have exactly what I was looking for. I am going to try and make a my own end… I will post pics once done. Thismorning I went poling and tied a small ball of cotton material to the end of my makeshift pole… it worked amazingly well too. I bet a better design would be the ticket for mud poling. Just an idea for the inventive folks out there who can make a decent idea better.

I fill mine with compressed air from a scuba tank. When it gets stuck I press a button on the end of it, and it shoots compressed air out the other end at 3000PSI. It becomes dislodged in a split second, but hang on tight as it also will launch the pole several thousand yards. It’s also great for blasting gators at short range, or fill the end with mud and blast that bass boat that gets too close!!