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Noodlin' For Fish

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A pair of hands trying to grab a fish

Noodlin' is the southern United States version of hand fishing. It is similar to regular hand fishing in that you catch the fish with your hand, but instead of spotting a fish in a stream and tickling him so that he swims backwards into your hand, you walk along the river looking for a hole that a fish lives in. When you find one you reach in and grab the fish out by either its gills or mouth. When most people go noodlin' they are trying to catch catfish. Instead of teeth, catfish have sandpapery lips that they grind their food apart with. Most noodlers ignore the 'sandpapering' of their hands as they struggle to pull the fish to the surface.

There are a few dangers to noodlin':

  • The noodler must be sure to search holes that are at least two feet below the surface - more if it has rained recently. Water moccasins (poisonous water snakes) make their holes at about surface level or slightly below. A water moccasin can still be a danger if you are probing below its hole when it comes out.

  • The noodler must be sure not to stray from the bank. Snapping turtles and gar (a fish related to barracuda that has an alligator-like mouth) make their holes in the riverbed and these can be a danger even if you are just wading along. They can remove fingers or toes with one bite.

  • If the noodler is in over his head, he has to be cautious of large catfish. A twenty-pound catfish - uncommon, but not exceedingly rare - is a good swimmer and is capable of drowning a man if it gets a good enough bite on his hand. The noodler has to remember that he has a certain amount of buoyancy and that he is not in his natural environment.

  • If a game warden catches a noodler without a fishing license it can cost the noodler somewhere between $50 and $100 depending on the state's laws.

The Benefits of Noodlin'

  • You don't have to buy a fishing pole.

  • You don't have to find or buy bait.

  • Usually the results are better - more fish in less time.

  • You get to wade down the river which is very relaxing.

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