They call it “hand fishing.” Most folks call it catfish noodling.
They call the participants “hand-fishing enthusiasts,” but there are plenty of folks who would call them plain, old crazy.
The 17th annual Okie Noodling Tournament, part of a two-day festival, took place in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma on June 17 and 18.
“It’s a big ol’ shindig down there, is what it is,” says Don “Katt Daddy” Brewer. “It is one of the times that a hillbilly redneck gets to be a rock star.”
Brewer has been catfish noodling since he saw his father reach in the water and pull out a fish as a kid.
He’s something of a celebrity in the noodling world, with appearances on the National Geographic Channel, A&E and OETA, as well as the series “Hooked” and Brewer’s own show “Mudcats.”
The festival and tournament took place Friday evening and all day Saturday. Activities during the festival included a concert, live noodling demonstrations, a watermelon crawl, a men’s only wet T-shirt contest and a kids’ catfish-eating contest. There was also a noodle-eating contest and the Okie Noodling Queen Competition.
The highlight of the festival was—no, not the men’s wet T-shirt contest—the noodling tournament.
Noodlers had to catch their fish within 36 hours of the weigh-in deadline at 6:00 p.m. Saturday.
While the festival is loads of fun, Brewer cautions that catfish noodling isn’t for the squeamish. The waters are filled with snakes, beavers and turtles that might object to your presence.
Also, a noodler can get pretty ripped up. Brewer says he has scars up and down his arm from noodling.
“It’s the thrill of it,” he says. “It’s the bite. It’s the excitement. Some people get it going by skydiving, jumping out of an airplane. I get it going by going 12 feet under the water and grabbing a hold of an 80-pound catfish.”
If you’re curious, the official results of the tournament will be posted sometime this week.