Either you love catfish noodling, or you don’t. There isn’t an in-between.
Out in Oklahoma, they take catfish noodling to depths most people just wouldn’t understand. Hand-fishing for flathead catfish is a way of life for some folks. However, it used to be an American lifestyle that was passed down for generations. These days, though, only a select few still brave the hazards and snapping turtles by sticking their hands in underwater holes hoping to get bit by a big catfish.
Noodling isn’t legal everywhere in the United States. Only a few states allow their residents to take part, but for those that do, it’s an event. Just check out this video from Yeti showcasing a few local catfish-noodling legends from Oklahoma and see how they get on it with their bare hands.
Apparently, catfish noodling brings enemies closer and makes families stronger. Why this isn’t legal everywhere is beyond me. These days, you can see this hillbilly handfishin’ on Animal Planet, Discovery channel or social media if you know where to look. Giant catfish can be seen being hoisted up on shoulders from all walks of life. It’s pretty crazy, too, because this is something most fishermen wouldn’t ever consider trying.
The single biggest factor in why a lot of states don’t allow catfish noodling is fairly simple. This whole entire noodling season takes place during the catfish spawn. As any experienced noodler knows, they already have all their holes located. When it comes times for spawning season, giant catfish fill those holes and protect their eggs. That’s when noodlers come calling. They say this can really impact a catfish population in specific waters. However, so few people do it, it’s hard to imagine a very big impact.
If this seems like a lot of fun to you, make sure you check your state laws before going scheduling your first noodling tournament. Again, it may be highly illegal. If not, just make sure you wear gloves. This extreme sport can get dangerous in a hurry, as you saw in the video above. Even though most of the noodling takes place in shallow water, when your head’s in a catfish hole down in a river while fighting a flathead catfish, it can get hairy pretty quickly.
Hand-fishing isn’t for everyone. But for the catfish noodling fools who do it all across the map, it’s all there is.