Hillbilly Handfishin' or Noodlin': Would You Fish for Catfish With Your Hands?
Animal Planet's New Show on Noodling
I was ironing my husband's workshirts last night while he was intently watching a television show. After I had completed my Sunday chore, I plopped myself down on the couch to zone out on the tube for a little while with him.
"What ya watchin'?" I asked him.
"Noodlin'," he responded with a smirk on his face.
Noodlin'? Was he talking about the idea of random down-home bumpkin Hillbillies using their fingers to lure and catch catfish? Yes, he was. In fact, the Animal Planet channel has a new reality show called "Hillbilly Handfishin'" and airs on Sunday nights at 10 pm EST.
I watched as a whole group of people, probably between six and ten, waded in a muddy river in their clothes and socks. Did it gross me out? Yes, I can't lie; however, I was almost immediately intrigued. Maybe at first it was out of pure humor to make fun of the hillbillies willing to do something so nasty, but that thought and impression of noodlin' sort of changed as I continued watching the show.
Ditch those fishing poles and forget your nets, folks! Let's go hillbilly handfishing!
Watch a Clip of Hillbilly Handfishin'
The Basics of Noodlin' or Hillbilly Handfishin'
In case you don't know what the technical definition of noodling (also known as handfishing) is:
is fishing for catfish using only bare hands, practiced primarily in the southern United States. The noodler places his hand inside a discovered catfish hole. Many other names, such as catfisting, grabbling, graveling, hogging, dogging, gurgling, tickling and stumping, are used in different regions for the same activity.
In the Hillbilly Handfishin' show on Animal Planet, there is a resort located in Oklahoma in which the main attraction is to take tourists down to the local Red River and Lake in order to learn how to go handfishing (or noodling) for catfish. The catfish professionals are two men who work for the resort and are more than skilled in handfishing for catfish in the area. The first time the group of new tourists goes handfishing they are taken to the Red River. The catfish pros show the beginners what a catfish hole is and how to ensure that a catfish is indeed inside of the hole by sticking their legs into the hole and then using their feet to feel around the hole for the catfish. If the water is shallow enough, the handfisher may use his or her hands in order to feel around for the catfish within the catfish hole. Once the presence of the catfish has been confirmed, the team will circle around the catfish hole and ensure that all openings are closed up or blocked so that the catfish cannot escape.
The handfisher then sticks his or her hand into the hole and feels around or waits for the catfish. Many times the catfish will become aggressive, as it feels it is being attacked, and it will bite the handfisher's hand (notice the picture to the right, catfish have nasty set of teeth). Sometimes the handfishing team above can even hear a loud whooshing sound coming from the hole in the water, which is usually the sound of the catfish taking a bite out of the handfisher or noodler's hand. You can be successful in handfishing for catfish if you have patience and a tolerance for cold water helps, too. Once the catfish has bit your hand, you have the opportunity to grab a hold of it and pull it to the top of the water. Hoping you have a partner with a hand full of rope, your partner (or if you are a skilled handfisher yourself) will wind rope around the catfish and pull it to the top. Much celebrating is done when the catfish is pulled out of the water and it is a tradition within the Hillbilly Handfishin' show's team to kiss the catfish before setting it free.
Would you go Hillbilly Handfishin' or Noodlin'?
As revolting and redneck as Noodlin' may seem, the majority of the tourists who travel to Oklahoma and other Southern states to do some down-home country handfishing really do have a great time. Yes, they get muddy and dirty and probably feel disgusting hygienically but what's life without a little roll in the mud or a dip in a dirty river sometimes? The pure excitement, fear, and adrenaline of the catfish noodling experience will probably make you feel as though you accomplished something you never thought possible, more especially if you are generally a prim and proper woman. No doubt Native Americans and even some of our ancestors had to hunt and grapple for their food in similar ways, so why not tap into your primal side and do some catfish handfishing one day? And take a look at some of the Hillbilly Handfishing video clips on youtube, you will notice that the variety of people who go handfishing is wide. Different races, genders, and ages are all engaging in this initially scary-looking but eventually fun hillbilly activity.
While I'm usually an advocate for anti-everything-hillbilly-and/or-redneck, if my husband asked me seriously to go handfishing with him one day, I just might have to go see for myself if I have the guts to shove my feet and hands in a river's hole and pull out a seventy pound catfish! Boy would I have some crazy memories and stories to tell to my children and eventually my grandchildren. Isn't life about experiencing the world? Try something different and go catfish handfishing. By the way, you can go handfishing or noodling for other types of fish besides catfish, if you are not a fan of these slimy looking creatures. Either way, please share with us how your handfishing experience went!