Hillbilly Handfishin' or Noodlin': Would You Fish for Catfish With Your Hands?

Hillbillies Handfishin'

Animal Planet's New - Hillbillies Handfishin'
Animal Planet's New - Hillbillies Handfishin'

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!

Bit by a Catfish during Noodling
Bit by a Catfish during Noodling

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.

Went Noodling!
Went Noodling! | Source

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!

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cody bland 3 years ago

I would love to come pick up some fish with yall i live in tyler tx and got my first 30 pound last year how do i get in on that? 903-571-0876

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Dillon Doran 3 years ago

i want to sign up for this but don't know how i

clifton jones 3 years ago

we been doin this for years but we call it hoggin in arkansas but we dont use stringers they aint caught till you put them in the boat or bank with nothin but your hands. The guys on the show look pretty fake to me and anyone who has ever hogged a fish.I am a licensed guide in arkansas so if you want the real thing give me a call 870 878 2033 or

clifton jones 3 years ago

we been doin this for years but we call it hoggin in arkansas but we don't use stringers they aint caught till you put them in the boat or bank with nothin but your hands. The guys on the show look pretty fake to me and anyone who has ever hogged a fish.I am a licensed guide in arkansas so if you want the real thing give me a call 870 878 2033 or

will 4 years ago

If anyone wants to go hillbilly handfishing just check out my website

Moe Campbell 4 years ago

YES, I would love for me and my son to do this. We are from the mountains of SE Kentucky, if you watch the Amazing Race we are from Clay County where Bopper and Mark are from. We love anything to do with fishing, hunting, gigging, trapping, trot lines. They need a show showing some of these ole local boys catching turtles by hand here also. Sign us up.......

Tammy Swensen 4 years ago

I don' know, I just want to get on the show. I have caught a lot of on a pole and getting in the water is the easy part. I want to go noodling......HELP!! :)


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Jannie D 4 years ago from Parys, Free State, South Africa

Well I got tired of catching teeny little catfish here in South Africa, so I caught a frog, put it on a superthick line and tied it to a tree. An hour later I had what I thought was a large cat fish (3ft), but you guys take the prize!

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kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

I don't blame you, Brenda. Thanks for sharing!

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Brenda Holstine 4 years ago from Denton, Texas

The men in my family have done this for ages. Yes, I'm an Oklahoma hillbilly now living in Texas. I have no desire to try this myself, though.

Dustin 5 years ago

I grew up in Oklahoma all my life and I love noodling it's a rush and I think it's great that more people are getting out and experiencing it.

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

feenix - Thanks for sharing...I didn't know they would shoot or blow up the catfish! That's crazy and funny, too. Check out the show sometime, you might really enjoy it. It's fun to watch people get pushed to their limits. :)

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feenix 5 years ago

Hello, kitty,

What a wonderfully written and informative hub. I am aware of the "hand-fishing TV show" but I have not gotten around to watching it yet. But after reading your article, I will make time for it.

And by the way, I have a lot of relatives in southern Louisiana and in that neck of the woods, a lot of the people just go out and shoot the cat fish or else they use a stick of dynamite.

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

MeaganB - Ahhh, a little pain never hurt nobody! ;)

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MeaganB 5 years ago

I prefer to use a fishing pole, this looks painful.

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Maryah - I really don't know sweetie, this was simply an informational piece that I wrote. I don't have an affiliation with the resort or with Animal Planet. The first thing I would do if I were you is go to animal planet's website and do a search on the show. Get in contact with them or do a google search on hillbilly handfishing in oklahoma and elsewhere. Good luck. 5 years ago

I would love to sign my boyfriend and I up for this. sounds so fun!!! how do i make it happen?

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

I'd love to do it too, sign me up, too!

shanna myers 5 years ago

sign me up i want to do it

kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

There's one place in Oklahoma that's all about the handfishing but it's sort of hard to find how to sign up for places. Google handfishing tournaments and resorts in Oklahoma and you should be able to find something. If not, you can always contact animal planet and maybe they could get you some info. on it. Hopefully this helps, thanks for reading and have fun out there!

ken canady 5 years ago

looks like fun,how do i and my 16 year old granddaughter sign up?

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prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Nice information from you. Actually I never touch catfish before. But this fish very popular in my country and it's good to be fried together with hot rice. Wow...that fish so big. I can't imagine to see this in person. I also enjoy the video above. Well done, my friend. Vote up and useful!


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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

tlpoague - Very fun show to watch..I think I might start recording it! I think it would be fun to try, though I'd be extremely terrified to stick my hand into any hole...much less one in the water! Thanks, again. :)

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tlpoague 5 years ago from USA

I love this show. My family use to noodle once upon a time. They had a blast! I did not like the idea of reaching my hand into the hole for something that I couldn't see. I will take paddlefishing over noodling anyday! Great hub!

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Aupadhyay - Why'd you read and comment then, hmmm? Not to be rude, just wondering. ;) By the way, you're entitled to your opinion and many people don't enjoy eating other creatures, but technically speaking, aren't plants creatures too?

AUPADHYAY profile image


This hub did not attract me a lot. Sorry, I am always of the view that all the creatures of the world are to be protected and should not be eaten up.

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Binaya - I love this show now...I'm addicted! :)

Paradise7 - Yes, some people still do this and eat the catfish, most people in the south love catfish I think! I've never had it, believe it or not. I'm sure if you fry it nicely it tastes just fine. I might have to try this one day, if I get a wild hair up my butt...handfishing might be fun! :)

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Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York

Some people actually eat the catfish, or they used to. I guess not so much anymore, that's why the fish are SO BIG! I couldn't see it myself--I wouldn't want to get bit by one of those big fish. For a sport, it is sort of daredevil and it's nice they put the fish back. Tying it with ropes would hurt it less than hooking it, too, I would think.

Binaya.Ghimire 5 years ago

I have not watched this show, and have never fished catfish After reading your hub I feel like watching the show.

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Dope! That's wasn't fun, AP! Sorry to hear that. I'm sure it was worse than getting barbed by a catfish. Dang Hillbilly folk! Thanks for reading and voting. :)

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Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

Like Hillbillys too, except for the one that smashed a beer bottle against the side of me head. Worse than gettin barbed by a catfish, DUH! Fun and different kind of article. Nice un kitty. Noodlin'- yeah, perfect word for it.

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

Taco Tagger - Too funny! I agree, I don't see how Hillbilly would be offensive to anyone who is actually a hillbilly. Thanks for reading!

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The Taco Tagger 5 years ago

Ma'am we aren't Hillbillies, we are "Appalachian Americans" and I feel repressed by the white man every time I hear Hillbilly. Ha Ha just kidding. Hillbilly is one of those terms that the people that are part of the group (like me) are proud to have that title because they are the ones that give themselves that name, not the outsiders. We know we are Hillbillies, and honestly, we don't care and actually embrace it. Noodlin' on the other hand, even for me, is something I would prefer not to ever take part in. Cool hub!

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kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

TheDirtFarmer - Thanks so much and you're right about Hillbilly still being okay to use...maybe it just doesn't offend like the other politically incorrect names do?

Delmer47 - I don't blame you, my friend! I'm pretty hesitant of it myself, as I'm more of a gardening type...not the fishing kind!

Kelly - That's awesome! Do they catch a lot? Do you get to enjoy a nice catfish fry from time to time? I envy you!

James - I agree. As gross and redneck as it seems, it also looks like something that could be a lot of fun and something to remember for the rest of your adventure for sure!

new2011mom - First of all congrats on being a new mom, if indeed that's what your name means! And yes, it is quite true that our ancestors used their hands a lot more than we do nowadays...well, we use our hands for computers and technology but what about a little hand usage for nature - fishing and hunting? Thanks for writing!

Jami - You're right, the alligator scenario is a dangerous part of handfishing; but what about in places that don't necessarily have alligators? Does Oklahoma have gators?

Husky - So happy you enjoyed this hub on handfishing. I don't blame you for wanting to stick to the shore or boat for fishing purposes.

truthfornow - Another Louisiana girl? Awesome! One day I'm going to visit New Orleans for a haunted tour, it's on my bucket list! Anyway, I bet the water is nasty. How do you know what you're grabbing isn't a snake or otherwise? Thanks!

writer20 - Catfish can be a really good fish to eat...if made right. The south always makes it best! Thanks!

galleryofgrace - It sure seems like handfishing generates more fish doesn't it? I guess it depends on the day, that's why they call it "fishing" and not "catching"! :)

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galleryofgrace 5 years ago from Virginia

Enjoyed the article. I have seen the show, it reminded of some I knew years ago who would catch the small river fish by hand and have a "good mess o fish", while the ones with poles and bait were catching nothing !

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writer20 5 years ago from Southern Nevada

We eat catfish here. You won't catch me hand fishing.YUK

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truthfornow 5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

The water is too gross for me to get in there. But, us in Louisiana love to eat our catfish!

Husky1970 5 years ago

Very interesting hub. I've never heard about noodlin or Hillbilly Handfishing and I knew absolutely nothing about catfish. Now that I do, I'm still going to stick to my rods and reels and fish for striped bass, bluefish, and bonito. Enjoyed reading your fishing hub. Voted up and interesting.

jami l. pereira 5 years ago

With all of the alligators around here ,(im 40 miles from louisiana) there AINT NO WAY ! you would ever EVER get me to do something so dangerous , i say dangerous , cause if you have ever been finned by a catfish you'd now what i mean ... ouch ! great Hub ! voted up and awesome fo sho!! :)

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New 2011 Mom 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

Ive heard about this and Ive seen it. It's funny how many people are still using techniques that probably our ancestors used and guess what it works! who needs to go out and buy expensive equipment when you can do it the old fashioned way and use what you got?!

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James Agbogun 5 years ago

Wonderful! Just learnt something new. Almost thought it's crazy using your hands as a bait until I played the Video. It's a fun-filled adventure worthy of trying.

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KellyPittman 5 years ago from Walker, LA

=D I'm a Louisiana girl. Though I haven't heard the term "noodling" until this show came out, this is something the men in my family have done for ages. However, I won't even consider getting the water, much less sticking my hand in a hole with a catfish. I'll stick to the pole and a line and fish from the bank.

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delmer47 5 years ago from Nebraska

Absolutely not Kitty :-) I am a city boy by heart. I had this on one of my FB posts months ago....I think I was watching the same show your husband was!

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The Dirt Farmer 5 years ago from United States

A well-written hub! On a side note, I find it interesting that the pejorative "hillbilly" hasn't been excised by the politically correct ax. I guess some groups are still fair game.

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    Author Nicole Canfield (kittythedreamer)1,887 Followers
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    Kitty has been around animals since she was a little girl. She lived on a farm for over fifteen years. She likes writing about animals.

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