So you realized regular old fishing just ain't all that: you're tired of your lame fishing rod, dorky fish traps, little fanny pack with bait, and you're ready for a real adventure.
Try noodling and fish with YOUR OWN BARE HANDS! And see photos from the new series Hillbilly Handfishin'
Check if Noodling is legal in your state. This might spoil the fun really quickly, but it is an important consideration. Noodling is legal in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas, and Missouri.
Be prepared! Make sure you have everything that you need; here is a list of items HowStuffWorks suggests you bring the following:
- A flat-bottomed John boat that won't tip over easily. Usually, these are made of wood or aluminum and have a couple of flat seats in them. They look a bit like something Tom Sawyer would paddle down the Mississippi River.
- Tight-fitting leather gloves to protect your hands as much as possible from the fish's teeth
- Some old, ratty clothes, ideally ones that won't be too heavy if they get waterlogged
- A pair of old canvas sneakers for your feet -- because they may get bitten, too
- A long stick that you can use to poke the river or stream bottom for holes
- A few sandbags or rocks, to block off escape routes for the catfish once you've located a nesting place
- A rope for your spotters to thread your catch onto, once you throw it in the boat
- A first-aid kit. Noodlers don't usually put this on their lists, but we'd advise it. Remember, the object of this sport is to trick a catfish into biting you.
But real bad-asses, or hillbillies if you will, don't need any such thing and will suffice with the help of just one friend. So forget all that and find yourself a nice noodling buddy.
Find a place with shallow water. If the water reaches over your head it is close to impossible to wrestle a fish out of its nest, not to mention the risk of drowning is much greater.
Get in the water and start looking for holes! Catfish make their nests where they feel safe. During spawning season, which occurs in spring and summer when the water temperature rises to about 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius), you're likely to find catfish in their nests because they seldom abandon their eggs. They can be inside submerged logs, fallen trees, under rocks or in mud banks.
Once you locate a promising spot, you'll want to barricade any possible escape routes, using rocks, sandbags or your noodling buddies.
Test the hole by poking it with a stick. Experienced noodlers can feel the difference between a catfish, a snake or a turtle. You do not want to grab the latter two, a snapping turtle could bite your finger off in one chomp and a snake bite could be even more disastrous.
If your stick says it's a catfish, go ahead and jam your hand in the hole. Sometimes you can do this without putting your head underwater. But other times you'll have to take a deep breath and submerge yourself. Now you wiggle your fingers, pretend you are bait, and let the catfish take a good bite onto your hand.
Some catfish will immediately clam onto your whole arm, while others will just nip at it. If the fish doesn't clench your hand, you'll need to pull open its mouth to get a good grip. Then, wiggle your fingers to work them into the fish's gill cover, the respiratory area on the sides of the fish's head.
Drag the fish to the surface, this is where your noodling buddies come in. It can be difficult to drag an 80 pound fighting monster out of the water, and if there's no one there to help you out you could potentially drown.
Release the fish. Yep, after all that machismo you just went through it is important to show your sensitive side and let the fish get back to his eggs, as the eggs might not develop and hatch without the mother. If you throw them back, you give them the chance to live, mate and produce progeny.
Go home and be proud you can now officially call yourself a Hillbilly Handfisher.