Noodling Mad

-- Last Updated: Feb-10-04 2:11 PM EST --

I happened to come across a PBS show last night regarding "Okie Noodling". I personally have never heard of this type of fishing and was quickly intrigued to learn more. As it turns out these were "Okies" (Oklahoman's) who catfish bare handed. That's right no gear at all! I couldn't believe what I was hearing but this documentary is true and generation after generation of people learn this fishing technique. They basically wade through a river insearch of holes the reach inside to entice the fish to bite their hand, then pull the hog to the surface. The end of the show was the first tournament and the winning catfished weighed in at 54lbs! Personally there is now way you will ever catch me Noodling! Apparently the sport is only legal (maybe what they mean is recognized) in 4 states. I can't for the life of me understand why a sport with no gear would be outlawed but maybe it has been. I have attached a link to the story. If you get the chance to watch this you'll be amazed.

Darn, I missed it.
I knew that show was coming, but I forgot to check the date and time. It wasn’t until I saw the preview for it that I realized for the first time that the catfish bites you before you grab him. Ouch. In the past I had always heard that you feel around to find the head and mouth, then grab hold, and I never understood why the fish would let you do that. It turns out that the fish thinks your hand is something to eat and it is not afraid of you. When I was a kid I read that some people have actually died doing this, after getting held down by fish that were too big and strong to dislodge from their hiding places.

As far as this being illegal in some places, it might be because good noodlers can really clean out the poplulation of large fish in a particular area pretty easily. Of course, good rod-and-reel fishermen can to that too, but having significant numbers of good rod-and-reel fishermen is a very new and still-rare thing when it comes to catfishing (until recently, just sitting on the bank and fishing blindly in one spot all day was normal practice, and it still is for most people). Also, I think fewer noodlers are very interested in catch-and-release, while the best rod-and-reel fishermen are more likely to appreciate the need for that.

Anyway, thanks for the post. I’m going to look to see if there will be a repeat broadcast. A lot of these shows go on the air more than once.

I have pics of noodling if anyone wants them . Huge fish. Either that or someone can tell me how to post pics.

I go to the Red River at the Denison Dam and there are a lot of old men that noodle there.

I enjoy talking to them and one told me you

can tell a true noodler because they are

missing fingers. They are really cool to talk

to. I have gotten them to shuttle my truck

down to highway 78. Most of the time we just

fish and play right there at the dam. It is

worth the trip to see these guys, if you ever

get the chance.

Red River at the Denison Dam…

– Last Updated: Feb-11-04 7:52 PM EST –

Cool, I was born and raised in Sherman. I've spent alot of time around the dam bowfishing for gar. I've never seen the noodlers.

I saw that PBS show, and I think there half crazy!!

PS, it will rebroadcast, I saw the show several months ago.

give it a try
In NC, we call it Graveling or Finger Fishing. We do it in rivers here or rocky areas in lakes below dams. Several rules. Never reach under a rock or stump that has an opening partially out of the water. Snakes like these places.

The really big fish will try to eat your hand, yes. They can really squeeze hard and the teeth are like rough sand paper. They can scratch you, but it is like a brush burn. If you get a big fish, only pull it part way out of the hole and get it on the stringer. they have a lot of fight and leverage when they get into open water and you try to fight them. It can break a hand or wrist. The smaller fish, up to 25", are generally easy to get.

When you are feeling around a rock for a hole under it with a fish, a catfish will always keep mud, sticks, etc. cleaned from the front of its hole. If you feel soft mushy mud, move on. If you find a hole, call your buddies around you and have them check the rest of the rock for escape routes. They can block them with hands, shoes, legs, etc. Now it is time to reach under the rock. As you put your hand under the rock, I keep my fingers together and pointed up so I can feel the fish with my hand. Most of the time, they just lay there. When you feel it, move your hand around and find the mouth. When you put your thumb in front of it, it will bite you. Push your thumb into the mouth and wrap your other fingers around and into the gills and pull it out.

It is a lot of fun and my frineds and I have spent many a Sunday afternoon finger fishing so we could feast that evening.

The only fish that get really aggressive are the males that guard the eggs. They will grab you quickly, shake your hand and let you go. They are so devoted to the eggs that we have pulled them out, dropped them, and then reached back into the same hole and pulled them out again.

I know this last statement sounds cruel and could hurt the catfish population, but most catfish that are caught on rod and reel around here are small and were pulled out from under a rock. If you hook a big one, you can’t pull it out and you break your line.

Also, for every fish we catch, we probably miss or scare away 5-10.

Also, don’t go when the water is muddy. The fish are not under the rocks but are out hunting food so you won’t find any.

Like I said, it is a blast and it is relatively safe. Use common sense and you should not get hurt.

I have pics of some huge fish caught noodling. If anyone is interested send me your e-mail address.


Shame Shame
There is one thing that bothers me about this post.

“The only fish that get really aggressive are the males that guard the eggs. They will grab you quickly, shake your hand and let you go. They are so devoted to the eggs that we have pulled them out, dropped them, and then reached back into the same hole and pulled them out again.”

How foolish do you have to be to not realize the damage you are doing to the fish population when you remove a male “GUARDING THE EGGS”. Do you think they guard them because they have nothing better to do. Or don’t you care that within 30 minutes of pulling that male of of his guard dutys each and every one of those eggs will have been devoured. Does it bother you that most flatheads never make it to breeding size and here you yahoos are removing the biggest and best breeders from the system. I’m all for catching some for the table, but eat the smaller 1.5 lb to 8 lb cats and let the big ones go. Your grand kids will thank you for it.

Practice CPR, Catch, Photo, Release.

finger fishing
Did you read the post, or just the parts you wanted to read to that hurt your feelings. Get a grip. If you ever get the kahoonies to do this, the really big flatheads, channel cats, blue cats that do most of the breeding and reproducing are found in holes under cut banks and not rocks in the middle of the river. The cats in the channel of the river are generally 24" or less and like I said, we come in contact with and MISS most of the fish we encounter. If you want to reach under a bank, like some do, for the really big ones, that is your choice. We fish a river that probably 50+miles long before it runs into a major river and they are both very difficult to access and are lightly fished. In both, the population of fish is very good, according to a DNR study done two years ago. (I’m a biologist too).

Does it bother me that those eggs are devoured after I take the fish out? No. Other animals have to live also. Shoot, if you died and were in the river, the catfish would eat you. It is the circle of life.

Next thing you know, hunters will have cameras in the barrel of their guns and when they pull the trigger, they will get a picture of what they could have shot to hang on the wall. Hey, that is a good idea. I think I’ll patent that. Naaaaa, can’t eat pictures.

Ya’ll have a good day!

In Tennessee it is also called…
…graveling, at least here in East Tennessee.

I mainly worked the rocks in the middle of Gap Creek (Cumberland Gap).

I can remember doing this when I was a pre-teen and my Dad would stand 4 or 5 feet down stream (facing away from us) with a Colt Woodsman .22, and shoot the ones that escaped.

I’m sure most times the concussion is actually what brought them up, but there were many that actually had bullet holes in them.

Dad was raised during the depression with 13 brothers and sisters, so they came up with some pretty innovative ways of aquiring food.

Once there were approx. 20 assorted family members wading Gap Creek ‘graveling’ the rocks and the bank. At the end of the day we had plenty of fish, and a couple of turtles, for supper. We cooked them there on the creek bank, along with some of Aunt Sarah’s well loved hush puppy mix.

One of my fondest memories, thanks for the reminder.

Are your photos digital? If not, they must be scanned to a file first on a scanner.

Once the photos are digital, you can set up a free acount on webshots and post the photos to the internet and then just post the link to anyone who wants to see it.

send pics
hey, im new to this site, but i love grabbelling, i would appreciate it if you sent me some of your pictures