You may already have seen several television shows like the Mudcats and Hillbilly Handfishin’ where they try to pull out monstrous flathead fishes using only their bare hands. You may also be wondering how on earth that’s possible and if you can accomplish such a feat as well. The technique is called catfish noodling.
Some anglers prefer noodling for catfish as it’s their family tradition, running through several generations. But, a lot of anglers would disagree with how the fish is caught, especially as there are dangers to noodling.
There are also those that don’t really feel noodling is immoral but are dissuaded from the recorded fish deaths.
In this article, we’ll discuss more on what catfish noodling is, what exactly this fishing sport or technique entails, and the controversy on whether or not the practice is ethical.
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What Exactly is Catfish Noodling?
To illustrate, a catfish angler typically noodles for catfish during the spawning season.
This is done by sticking the arm in a natural hole found in riverbanks or any other fishing structure where the male fish is likely to nest and guard its eggs.
During the spawn, male catfish are more aggressive. It’s likely to strike the hand of the noodler. As soon as the fish bites, it’s grabbed by the noodler by the gills or mouth then yanked out of its hiding place.
What States Allow It?
Noodling for catfish in the ocean is only legal in a couple of southern and midwestern states in the country.
Here are the specific states that allow this particular catfishing method: South Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Arkansas.
What is the Controversy Surrounding Catfish Noodling?
There are several reasons why noodling is legal only in a few states. Most states, they think noodling can deplete the population of catfish in local fisheries.
Additionally, the practice affects the ecosystems, brings forth litter into bodies of water, and an angler can get injured seriously.
Noodling Affects Ecosystems
The Department of Conservation in Missouri conducted research and it showed that noodling can negatively impact the population of catfish in small tributaries where the hand-fishers like to fish.
The study indicates that the population of catfish is a lot more vulnerable in small rivers and streams because less than 25% of the catfish migrate to smaller tributaries from large rivers during the spawn. Noodling in a smaller body of water thus leads to over-harvesting of the existing fish.
In addition, the research found that the practice of hand fishing greatly impacts the population of catfish as within 12 hours from the removal of the male catfish from its nest, fungus forms right on the fish eggs. This results in the inevitable death of the eggs.
Noodling Brings Litter into Waters
In 2011, the same government authority on nature conservation did a survey and it was reported that their agents pulled hundreds of illegal noodling containers and boxes from Truman Lake.
The agents found several different items that were modified for noodling including tractor tires, old water heaters, and metal tanks that were abandoned near the lake.
Noodling Can Be Dangerous to Anglers and Catfish
More importantly, noodling is dangerous not only for the fish but to those who participate in this sport as well.
For instance, while hand-fishing, an angler gets punctured by the spines of catfish or even sheds some blood from having an arm inside the abrasive mouth of the fish.
A hand-fisher must take certain precautions when going into murky waters as there are those that were injured by venomous snakes, snapping turtles, and even alligators in the past. This depends on the location.
What Gear is Essential for Noodling?
Noodling doesn’t require bait or any fancy fishing gear. All that you’ll need for you to enjoy the sport are the following:
How is Catfish Noodling Done?
It’s actually easy to get the hang of it if you follow these simple steps for catching catfish through noodling:
Step 1: Make sure you noodle during the spawning season.
As we have stated earlier, a noodler is more successful when noodling during catfish’s spawning season. This is typically in spring and summer. During the spawn, it’ll be easy to predict the movement of catfish and where you’re most likely to locate them.
Step 2: Find the nesting place of your target.
You can usually locate the nest of catfish in a natural underwater crevice like a downed tree, hollow log, and depression in a stream bank.
Step 3: Free up your arm and stick it in the hole.
As soon as you’ve located the nesting place of your target, stick your arm inside the hole. Then, wiggle your fingers. This way, your fingers will look like they’re floating noodles. Just wait until the fish strikes.
Step 4: Take the fish out of its hole.
As soon as a catfish bites you on your arm, get a good hold of it by grabbing the gills or bottom lip of the fish.
Step 5: Pull the fish out from the water.
Muscle the fish out of the water and be extra careful as the fish may fight back. This is where the danger comes in as the fish will harm your body as it keeps on thrashing to get away from your grasp.
It’s possible that you will get punctured with its three spines. Make sure that you know how to handle catfish the correct way, and don’t panic.
When you’ve completed your conquest, don’t forget to hook the fish on a stringer. Take it home with you and clean it before storing it in the freezer.
Is catfish noodling ethical? The answer is ultimately up to you. But, should you decide to try the sport, do so responsibly and ethically by ensuring it’s one of the legal fishing methods in your state.
Above all, remember to never leave trash in nature. Stay safe!