Noodling, or cat fishing, is the sport of catching catfish with bare hands. As simple as this sounds, it’s probably one of the most weird, insane and dangerous sports that anyone can participate in. Also known as hand fishing, hogging, tickling, grabbing or stumping, it’s legal in only 13 states of the USA.
How it works
Typically, it works by the fisherman, known as the ‘noodler’ using their feet to find catfish holes in shallow water. This is the reason why catfish are chosen over other animals, due to the circumstances of their habitat. The noodler then reaches into the hole with their hand and waits for the fish to latch on in a defensive maneuver. The noodler then pulls out their hand with the fish and catches it.
Noodling is generally done in pairs or larger groups. The extra people are used for assisting in taking the fish back to shore, as they can be quite heavy (an average fish weighing approximately 18kg), and also as ‘spotters’ who help locate the catfish homes. The main reason it is important to never fish alone is due to the danger of the activity.
Dangers of Noodling
Catfish are incredibly strong, and when put in danger they have the ability to pull a man under the water. Experienced noodlers tell stories of men who have been dragged underwater, never to resurface. Also, when the catfish bites down on a noodler’s hand, they tend to lurch side to side in a panic, causing the already painful bite to intensify.
There have also been cases where noodlers have mistaken other creatures for catfish. Turtles, beavers and other water dwellers can be fairly dangerous when provided with the bait of a few stray fingers. Another danger that may be faced is if a catfish misses the noodler’s arm and rockets straight into their abdomen. This could knock the wind out of you, and maybe even break a few ribs.
Noodling is no easy business.