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Catfish Noodling

Omkar Phatak
One of the most radical and dangerous types of fishing is catfish noodling. It is unlike any other conventional technique. Read to know all about it.
What is your idea of fishing? A quiet day spent in a boat, with buddies, with a fishing rod in hand, and beer to cheer you up, with the occasional excitement of catching a fish, right? Well, wait till you hear about catfish noodling. It changes all the conventional ideas of fishing.
Flathead catfish noodling is one of the most exciting forms of fishing, where you challenge the fish in their own terrain, by wading through the water and grabbing them with your own bare hands.
Known as one of the most primeval forms of fishing and a throwback to caveman times (due to no use of fishing equipment), noodling for catfish is a rage among people who like subjecting themselves to the elements and have fun in the process.

How To Noodle

Primarily a form of sport fishing in Southern USA, big catfish noodling has its origins in the fishing practices employed by native Americans. It caught on as a fishing technique during the years of depression and later became a sport.
Prominent in the rural parts of United States and the Midwest, where flathead catfish are found plentifully, this fishing technique or sport is not for everybody. You may find guides and tips online, but nothing can prepare you for the real thing, until you actually do it.
Noodling is also known as stumping, gurgling, tickling, graveling, hogging, and catfishing. It is legally permitted in only 13 US states. Though conventional fishing of catfish is allowed, noodling is prohibited and can lead to a destruction of fish nests, endangering their population.

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It is used to catch catfish in particular, due to their peculiar habitat, where they make their nests in submerged shallow water logs, rocks, and other such surface features.
The first part involves spotting the areas where catfish are bound to be present in plenty. During spawning season in spring and summer, noodling activity is undertaken, as this is the time when they are most likely to be found in their underwater nests.
This kind of fishing is generally undertaken in shallow water areas, where actually stepping into water and wading through it is possible. A noodler will have a team of spotters with him, to help him out.
The first part is stepping into the water and wading through it to spot catfish nests in rocks, under logs, and other such places. To spot the holes, noodlers may have to submerge themselves in water, by holding their breath for a while.
Once a nest, which is generally a hole, is located, the next part is making sure that the inhabitant is indeed a catfish and not a snake or even a turtle. A stick is poked in to check that. After making sure, that it is indeed a catfish, a noodler will insert his hand inside. They basically use their own hands as bait.
Being threatened, the flathead catfish attacks and bites the hand. When it bites, it really makes sure that you remember its bite and holds onto your hand. Immediately, the noodler gets hold of the fish, by getting a grip in the gill cover of the fish and pulls it out.
In case the fish is too heavy (they can weigh 20 pounds to as much 50 pounds) and the noodler starts getting pulled into the water, the spotters pull him back. If the noodler gets the fish out of the water, the spotters immediately remove the fish from his hand and throw it into an accompanying boat.

Risks Involved

As you can see, challenging a fish in its own territory is no child's play. It is a sport for daredevils. Noodling dangers are many and one needs to be an excellent swimmer and have the strength to pull out a heavy catfish out of the water. A noodler is bound to get bruised due to the bite of the catfish, which is quite strong.
Another danger is getting bit by creatures like turtles, snakes, muskrats, and beavers, by poking your hand in inadvertently, thinking that it's a catfish inside. A few people have died this way, being surprised by deadly creatures underwater.
When a noodler goes into deep waters, it becomes even more dangerous, due to the danger of drowning. Many noodlers use scuba diving equipment and work in teams as going in single is not advisable. This type of fishing can be a very dangerous and is just not recommended for the faint of heart. Noodle at your own risk.