Buckmasters Magazine

Get Bit!

Get Bit!

By Cody Hall

You haven't fished until you've done it bare-handed!

Handfishing, hogging, grabbling, noodling — whatever you want to call it, the concept is the same: go under water and catch a catfish with your bare hands! If that sounds more scary than exciting, then read on. Chances are the dangers and fears you might have about noodling are unfounded.

How To:
Step 1) Make Sure Noodling Is Legal In Your State
Noodling is not currently legal in every state. In fact, handfishing is illegal in many states. The ones the expressing allow noodling are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illi-nois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

If noodling is legal where you live, you also need to know if there additional licenses, permits or regulations you must follow. A few examples to be aware of include bag lim-its and equipment restrictions.

Get BitStep 2) Be Safe
When conducted properly, noodling is a very safe activity. However, like any recreational water activity, there are important safety considerations to follow at all times.

We can't stress enough the importance of noodling with at least one partner. Having someone there to help and watch your back, and for you to do the same for them, makes the experience even more exciting and very safe.

Noodling often requires you to fully submerge yourself for a period of time, sometimes multiple times for one fish. Since you don't have gills and can't breathe water, it's critical to have someone there help. Something as simple as a cramp can cause you to lose your ability to swim to the surface, so don't noodle alone.

The other fear that deters people from trying it is the fear of snakes and turtles. One thing to keep in mind is that fish are biting you to get out, therefore they do the same with turtles and snakes. Turtles and snakes also need air, so they are not inside the hole; however, you can find them outside or around that same area. Use caution and be on the look out but remember, they are afraid of you just as much as you are of them.

Get BitStep 3) Locate The Fish
You can't catch fish if they aren't there.

When it comes to locating catfish nests, the best places to scout include under boat ramps, in sea walls and in tree root systems along the bank. You can also build structures and put them out, however this might not be legal in your state, so check before doing so.

You can use your feet to feel around the structures and uncover where a catfish has created a nest. Water shoes are highly recommended! Once you locate a catfish hole, use a small stick (a 4-foot piece of cane is perfect) to see if there's a fish inside. You don't have to use the stick, but checking to see if there's a catfish at home before you stick your hand in can save you a lot of work and effort.

Step 4) Get Bit!
If you stick the cane pole in the hole and feel and heavy thump, then you've found exactly what you're looking for. That means it's time to get bit!

Get BitUse your dominant hand and reach into the hole. Keep your palm down and your fingers straight and held together. The fish will strike your hand, typically more than once, until you can successfully grab its bottom lip.

Step 4) Hold On!
Once you have secured a good grip with your dominant hand, it's time to pull your fish out of the nest — and you had better hold on tight! Catfish, especially blue cats, put up a fight. They will spin, thrash and twist like mad, so you'll want to get two hands on your fish before you fully remove it from the hole. Otherwise, you likely won't win the fight!

There are lots of noodling videos online, and we recommend checking out Alyssa Hall's noodling exploits on YouTube. Alyssa, or alyfromalabama, is proof positive you don't have to be a big burly man to wrestle up giant cats.

“I love noodling because there isn't anything that can prepare you for it,” Alyssa says. “Every aspect of noodling is based on your ability to conquer your own fears — you can't prepare yourself, and you can't practice. There is a level of surprise that is un-touched in any other sport, and the adrenaline rush is absolutely incredible.”

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Copyright 2020 by Buckmasters, Ltd