Noodling for catfish is awfully effective, but Missouri thinks it's just a bad idea.
Several states across America allow handfishing, otherwise known as noodling, to those that partake in this aggressive catfishing technique. However, noodling for catfish is not allowed in Missouri, and for good reason, according to the state's Department of Conversation.
Noodling for catfish has been illegal in the "Show Me State" since 1919. There was a time, due to popular demand, this practice was legalized in 2005 and 2006 as a part of a study to measure the impact of the technique on the state's catfish populations. Since that trail, noodling has been reclassified as illegal to the current day.
According to their statistics, over 2,000 people illegally go noodling for catfish every year. If this practice was made legal, they estimate those numbers would reach near 13,000. The problem with this technique is that noodling targets large, mature blue and flathead catfish while they are spawning. During their spawning times, these catfish hunker down in dens, crevices, and holes and aggressively protect their nests. It's at this time noodlers stick their hands near the nests creating a reaction strike from the fish. At this point, they are grabbed by the fisherman and removed.
Here's where Missouri has the biggest problem. On average, the state estimates a yearly $157 million catfish industry from anglers chasing these giant fish, which are also classified as a top gamefish.
Noodlers specifically target smaller streams and rivers, where mature catfish spawn. In targeting these areas, noodlers remove 50 to 60 pound or larger spawning catfish from the populations, decimating the reproduction numbers for those areas. After continually removing spawning catfish, the numbers of catfish have nowhere to go but down, hurting the fishing industry, individual fishermen, and of course, the catfish themselves.
According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, the Conservation Federation of Missouri, the state's largest private citizen conservation group, is strongly against handfishing, and so is the Federation's affiliated fishing groups.