Okie Noodling

This is quite possibly the most random post I have ever written. That is your disclaimer!

My sister‘s hubby is a ‘noodler’….what you might ask is a “noodler”? Well, I felt like more people should see his pictures and get a glimpse of what he does so I asked if I could do a little interview. I fully admit I viewed Noodling as a totally redneck thing, but reading his answers I found myself with a new appreciation for what he does. He didn’t convince me to stick my hand in a dark hole hoping for a catfish to bite, but I am a little proud (in an odd way) of him. I’d never do it, but he loves it. So here is my interview with my engineer brother-in-law who I’ve heard has taken most of his fellow engineers noodling recently!

Eric is an amatuer noodler….in my opinion he catches massive fish. However, he did want me to note that noodling is a hobby he enjoys. Professional noodlers can catch fish as large as 80lbs. That is CRAZY!

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What is noodling? The act of catching a catfish with your hands only. Different states have their own definition of it, but here in Oklahoma it is hands only. We look for large catfish in holes up under rocks or other holes created by structures and we grab them with our hands and wrestle them to the bank or boat. When we stick our hands up in these holes we are hoping catfish will bite our hands giving us the opportunity to grab a hold of the fish. If the fish will not bite we keep pestering it until we can get our hands in its mouth. We typically look for these fish in 1-8ft of water and they can range in size with our largest being 40lbs. We are still looking for larger fish that can be well over 50lbs.

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How do you learn to noodle? You can learn how to noodle by going with someone who has experience in this style of fishing. It takes quite a bit of practice to become proficient at noodling, so I would advise going with someone who knows what they are doing for quite a few trips, and always go with a partner. The hardest part about noodling is becoming a master at finding the holes and where to look for these holes. It just takes time on the water. We predominantly noodle up under rocks or boat ramps in lakes.

Sidenote: I believe Eric says to always go with a partner because it is dangerous. I imagine one of those fish could pull you under pretty easily. And YES it hurts. I don’t speak from experience, but from witnessing the nasty wounds Eric gets.

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Why noodle instead of fishing with a pole? Don’t get me wrong, I love to fish conventionally with my rod and reel, but there is just something about the rush you get when one of those fish bite. It always comes out of nowhere, no matter how ready you are. I especially like noodling because you are always active. The only way to catch a fish this way is to get in the water and start feeling around.

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Describe a typical day noodling. A typical day noodling starts by getting the boat ready and equipped with plenty of food and water. We typically get to the lake early and we go from spot to spot looking for fish in their holes. After we have checked the holes that we already know of, we will look for new spots in the areas of the lake we haven’t noodled. We may take a break or two to eat and get something to drink, but for the most part we are in the water from the time we get there to the time we leave.

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Will you teach Sweet P to noodle? I would be glad to teach her if she shows any interest but her mother may keep that from happening. We have quite a while until she is old enough to go, so we will see when that time comes.

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Give me 3 reasons I should try noodling. Number 1 – Catching a catfish with your hands gives you a sense of accomplishment because there is a fear involved. I don’t care how tough you are the first time you don’t know what to expect and you are a little scared. Number 2 – Enjoying nature. I am always amazed by God’s creation and the feeling of His closeness when I am in nature. I understand you can get this from any outdoor experience but there is just something about being in the water. Number 3 – To get in touch with the Past. Noodling was first done by Native Americans as a common form of catching fish. Then it became a from of gathering much needed food by rural people during the Depression. A fish that size can feed a lot of people. If everything goes bad in a hurry, you know you can always go out and catch dinner with your hands.

(battle wound on his arm)
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Why do you noodle? I noodle because it has become a part of who I am. I will always do it as long as I am healthy enough to get in the water and swim around. I know people have this view that only rednecks noodle, but they are very wrong. You will run into people from all walks of life that enjoy noodling. The feeling of putting your hand in a dark lake hole and waiting for something to happen is exhilarating. Being able to win the battle in man vs. beast also has its draw, but for the most part I just enjoy getting out and experiencing life.

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Yeah….so how is that for a Monday post? Bet you didn’t see that one coming. I like to keep you guessing around here. Honestly though, I appreciate that Eric does what he loves despite stereotypes that surround it and people (like me) calling him a redneck. He’s a great guy and I am thankful to call him my brother-in-law.

So because I am curious….How many of you have Noodled? How many have never heard of Noodling?

One more disclaimer: All fish caught are for food…if you leave a mean comment about my bro I will delete it…it’s my blog:)

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  • Lacey - My husband has been BEGGING me to let him do this ever since we moved to western Oklahoma. A lot of guys he works with find it to be a fun hobby, but I’m not willing to let him sacrifice one of his hands quite yet. Plus, I’ve convinced myself that he would get bit by one some ginormous Oklahoma snake. Your post may be softening me though…..

  • Jennifer - This should be one of the requirments for that show “fear factor.”
    Menacing, dark, wet, holes are NOT getting these prissy little paws!!

  • StarHughes - Oh my goodness that is one of the funniest things I have ever seen!! Or heard of! And that battle scar!

  • Lisa - I have heard about this since we moved here two years ago. It sounded crazy to me. I can’t believe they are brave enough to stick their hands in any dark hole expecting a bite – but from one of those big things? YIKES! Yes, a whole new respect for Noodling folk. It still seems pretty gross, but you have to be serious about fishing like that. Wow.

  • amy - …only in America……..(and I mean that in the best way possible.) I’m military stationed in Germany — and I can say that this post made a tad homesick. Love it.

  • Elizabeth K - This post is exactly why I read blogs….to learn things I didn’t already know! Also, now I really have a craving for some fried catfish and it’s barely 8am.

  • Pamela - They actually screened a documentary about, it in South Africa. My thoughts- “geez, those Americans are more crazy than I initially thought…..”

  • Jenny Wenzel - I am familiar with noodling, although I have never done it! But what I think is the funniest about the entire post is the noodling logo and the hand that only has 4 fingers! That makes me laugh!

  • Gretchen - Wow, that is exactly the kind of crazy I like. Noodle on, gentlemen! PS One of your sons looks like Eric.

  • Gretchen - Oops, that doesn’t sound right since he’s your sister’s husband. I just mean that one of your boys has the same rugged cuteness.

  • Lisa - okay. So I reposted this to facebook. I have not only tried to understand this sport of sorts, but others just need to know about it. Off topic a bit, where might your brother-in-law suggest going to find some crawdads? I know you have posted on some. My kids are wanting to find some of their own around here. Thanks!

  • tracy ashley - one of my favourite quotes from a tv show we watch regularly is,
    “do you know what noodlin’ is?”
    “no”
    “what kind of hill-billy are you?”

    just made me laugh to think of okie noodling while so far away (did you know there’s even a documentary on it, called “okie noodling”?)

    great post ashley!

  • twirlingbetty - That.is.hilarious. I’m considering the possibility that it was noodling that led someone to first use the phrase “Only in America”. I can’t stop laughing for some reason.

  • Shannon - BOOMER!

  • amber - i have seen the tv show and my thoughts on noodling are not good. however, God made us each different and what does it for someone might not do it for the next person. i do understand the thrill of it though! : ) rock on!

  • Heather - My kids LOVE catfish but there’s no way I could do that! Even if someone promised me it doesn’t hurt (which apparently it does), I know I couldn’t leave my hand in the hole long enough for a fish to bite. I’d keep pulling it out because I’d be afraid. I would imagine it is quite a rush, though. Those are the biggest catfish I’ve seen. I wonder if they get that big around here and if people noodle for them in this area. That would make for a great dinner :) Thanks for the post!

  • Blair - Ha! That’s awesome. My uncle will scoot along in his boat and electrify the fish with an old car battery. they all kinda go into shock and float up to the top and you can just scoop ‘em into your boat. good ol’ carolina.

  • Lisa Keen - O my! how funny…I am from Pauls Valley which anually hosts the Okie Noodling Tournament every June! hahah! Yes, I know about noodling :) lol There are all kinds of news people that go there to report live– even Fox News! Too Funny :)

  • Mandy - I cannot believe I was raised in KENTUCKY and have never heard of noodling! However I have caught a monster catfish in my time. Not sure if I would be brave enough to noodle..Just seeing them in the photos in that water makes me cringe and I’m no girly-girl by any means. Looks fun though!

  • Nori R - Well, ain’t that a kicker. Teehee!!! I hadn’t heard of noodling, but I’m sure it’s practiced in Pennsylvania by some too. We’re rather resourceful, and many people are connected to the land from many generations back of early settlers, who fought to make it habitable. Yay for laughing at stereotypes. :)

  • nathan thompson - I noodle and its a blast. Its a big adrenaline rush. If any one is around the oklahoma region id be willing to take them out noodling with my brother and I. Contact me at n.thompson91.nt@gmail.com

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