Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Noodling is a southern US practice of fishing for catfish using only bare hands. Many other names, such as catfisting, grabbling, graveling, hogging, dogging, gurgling, tickling and stumping, are used in different regions for the same activity. Noodling is currently legal in eleven states.

Although the concept, catching fish with only the use of the arm in the water, is simple enough, the process of noodling is more complicated. The choice of catfish as the prey is not arbitrary, but comes from the circumstances of their habitat. Flathead catfish live in holes or under brush in rivers and lakes and thus are easy to capture due to the static nature of their dwelling. To begin, a noodler goes underwater to depths ranging from only a few feet to up to twenty feet, placing his hand inside a discovered catfish hole. If all goes as planned, the catfish will swim forward and latch onto the fisherman's hand, usually as a defensive maneuver in order to try to escape the hole. If the fish is particularly large, the noodler can hook the head around its gills.

Most noodlers have spotters who help them bring the catfish in, either to shore or to their boat. When a catfish bites onto a noodler, it holds on for quite a while.

With some of the biggest fish caught weighing in at up to 50-60 pounds, very few noodlers are strong enough to attempt noodling by themselves. Although carrying the fish after they have been subdued is not difficult, trying to secure a fish and remove it from one's hand at the same time can be a challenge.

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